L’Abeille à Côté

Inside the dark gray, bunker-like dining room at L’Abeille à Côté, smooth jazz plays and Tribeca couples with Birkin bags on little stools by their feet use forks and knives to eat fried chicken. They might have more fun if they ate it with their hands: after all, this is supposed to be the “casual and playful” next-door neighbor of more formal L’Abeille (one of our best new restaurants of 2022). But despite a busy open kitchen and friendly servers maneuvering between closely packed tables, the food here just doesn’t encourage sticky, fingers-first fun. Though the French-Japanese menu sounds promising, most of the elaborate dishes—like two, metrocard-sized taiyaki stuffed with a few flakes of sea bass ($34)—are sadly more puzzling than playful.