Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oooh La La

We discovered Zucco: Le French Diner on 188 Orchard Street while wandering around the Lower East Side. We haven't had French cuisine yet while in the city but we wanted to find a French restaurant that wasn't pretentious. We found THE perfect place. Le French Diner is a very tiny restaurant with good atmosphere, good music, good service, and good food. What it lacks in space it makes up for with its charm and character. Le French Diner looks like the kind of restaurant that Parisians that are anti-Champs-Elysees type of scene would dine at if it were in Paris. These photos stink but it was very dark in there.

The owner of the restaurant is a French man that goes by just one name "Zucco" (like Prince or Cher). He's an older man that looks like he used to be a biker or a drummer for a rock band, but has a soft-spoken mannerism. The only thing we heard him say all night was "merci." Zucco acted as our chef, our waiter, our host, and our busser. We saw only two other workers that were washing dishes and helping with some cooking.

Everything at this restaurant is petite and dark, including the bathroom. The bathroom was only lit by Jesus candles and you feel like you either needed to say confession in there or you suddenly felt transported to that scene in the 1976 prom horror flick Carrie when her crazy mother locks her up in that tiny room.

Their mini kitchen is right behind the bar that seats six or so people. There’s about four sets of two-seater tables and they are all really close to each other. This is not a place to have private conversations. With just a few tables and a no reservation policy, the best chance of getting a table is to arrive by 6:30 PM.

Their drink menu consists of French beer and wine. The wine is served in petite glasses from Paris (at $5 a glass). Their Bordeaux was excellent.

Their menu is classic French with lots of cheese, butter, and bread, and ranges from the very simple (cheese and cold cut platters) to more elegant dishes. Some of his menu items include: homemade foie gras with apple compote and toast; smoked herring with warm potato salad; snails; lamb sausages; bacon and cheese pie; risotto with Arborio rice, truffle oil and cheese; tagliatelle with bacon, ham, cream sauce and poached egg; Le Croque Monsieur; and grilled filet mignon burger. He also has a simple French brunch menu, desserts, and an array of espressos and cappucinos.

Zucco's Le Saumon Grille in creamy sorrel sauce served with mixed vegetables was very rich. Lots of butter and cream. The salmon was cooked perfectly.

The Le Pate Beurre Cornichon (pate, butter cornichon on a soft baguette), served with French fries. There is no ketchup at this restaurant. I was a bit saddened by this at first. But Zucco squeezed a ton of spicy mustard on the edge of my plate that surprisingly went well with the fries.

The only thing that could have made our experience here potentially disastrous was if we didn't have enough cash. We weren't told until we were handed our bill that the restaurant only accepts AMEX or cash. We can't wait to go back!