CLAUDETTE – NYC
24 5th Avenue (9th Street), New York, NY 10011
Date Dined: June 2014
Claudette is one of the hottest openings of the summer. On the train out of the city Saturday I overheard a conversation about how constantly booked it is, and rightfully so! This Provençale restaurant is the sister restaurant of the also ever-popular Rosemary’s. However, I thought that the execution at Claudette was far superior.
The charming, airy space is decorated as if you stepped into the family room of a home in the south of France, emitting a casual, rustic elegance – bookshelves on one wall, a charming bar, baskets and batik fabrics, and neutral tones throughout.
Koren Grieveson is a James Beard award-winning chef from Chicago who has created a menu of light and flavorful dishes ideal for sharing. The food is French with some inspiration from North Africa and the Middle East. According to the restaurant, the name Claudette comes from the 91-year old mother of Guy Sammut, owner (with his wife) of two restaurants and a hotel in Loumarin which the owners happened to stumble upon. So impressed with their experience, they named the restaurant after Guy’s mother.
The menu is especially perfect for warm weather because it incorporates fresh vegetables, meats and fish with lots of spices but nothing heavy, creamy or very cheesy.
Our meal began with the truffle hummus which is served with warm fennel flatbread that is almost like a crispy roti. I love anything with truffle and this was very good.
Next were the spring peas and radish with ras el hanout vinaigrette. Ras el hanout is the most ubiquitous spice mix in Morocco so this dish brought me straight back to those memories.
We also had the courgette strings with roasted tomato, anchovy and basil. Basically a lighter version of pasta, these zucchini strings were packed with salty herbaceous flavor.
The charred baby octopus with chickpea, harissa and parsley were mildly spicy, nicely seasoned, and tender.
The warm lamb salad with asparagus and frisee salad is light yet filling with tender bits of lamb, potato and dressed in a sherry vinaigrette.
The wrapped red snapper was delicious – seasoned with chermoula and fennel and wrapped in fine sheets of eggplant and topped with crispy eggplant chips.
Finally we finished with the ratatouille tarte with a buttery pâte brisée crust. This really should have come earlier in the meal because we were so full by the time it arrived. The crust was buttery and crisp with the sweet filling of tomato-ey stewed vegtables inside.
I highly recommend Claudette for a light and yet satisfying meal in a casual, elegant ambiance.