Bistro Pierre Lapin

People are impressed with (and a little envious of) the French and their relationship to food, especially a meal. So much so that UNESCO added the gastronomic meal of the French to their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage designations. The gathering around the table to eat is something most cultures engage in, of course, but it seems to carry special importance in France. A French friend told me that in France, people don’t dine out so for the food as they do for the company. Which it’s why its nice with the two converge.

There are plenty of places to do that in France, but you find them elsewhere, too, which we did at Bistro Pierre Lapin in New York. Inspired by the easygoing bistros of France, this West Village spot was founded by Harold Moore and Julia Grossman. Harold is the chef while Julia is in charge of desserts and drinks, two of my favorite things to focus on as well.

The bistro is like a neighborhood café, and when you see French people lining the bar, enjoying a late afternoon apéritif, you’ll find yourself in a scenario that could transport anyone to France. We stopped in for dinner, enjoying a comfortable booth with a window looking outside, with no crazy-loud music turned up so you had to shout at each other just to get heard. It was nice to take a break from the rush of Manhattan and linger by a sunny window, admiring the view, and the food.

Unlike a traditional French bistro, this one had one of those cocktail lists that makes you want to order everything; nothing too fancy or showy, and it wasn’t overwhelming. Having just four items on it, you could conceivably order everything, I suppose. But we resisted. Romain had a lush Margarita Française with tequila, China-China (bitters), and calamansi juice.

I went to the darker side with a 35-87, a cocktail that gets its name from the distance in miles between Cognac and New York, according to Google, Julia told me later. It’s made with Cognac, vermouth, bitters, and black cherry, and was just how I like a drink; tall, dark, faintly bitter, and without any pretense. Just a good cocktail, served straight up.

To nibble on with our drinks, they brought out a small bite of pâté made by the chef, served with a housemade baguette that was still warm, with a few olives and a smear of excellent butter.

When you see the servers wheeling the vegetable cart around the dining room, it’s hard not to want to order Le Ravier, a melange of French-inspired vegetable salads, served tableside. Which we did.

Our favorites were the French classics; grated carrot salad, green lentil salad, and smoked eggplant caviar. I like the idea of such a bountiful plate of vegetables, but in France, you’d likely only get three salads on a plate (there might be exceptions, of course), but I’d rather focus on just a few salads rather than a lot of them all at once. But it was hard to argue at how beautiful they all looked together.

Harold worked at Daniel and Jean-Georges, and is who also co-owner of Harold’s Meat + Three, so knows a thing about meat.

So he likely couldn’t resist adding bacon to another French classic, Œufs mayonnaise, with pickles in the filling, and topped with crisp bacon. When I met him later while passing through the dining room, he mentioned that bacon isn’t a traditional addition to this dish, but in the U.S., it’s likely to win over more converts. (Me? I’m already sold. It’s one of my favorite bistro dishes.) However it’s not something that’s overly fussed over in France, and while usually it’s just a few egg halves with mayo spooned over them, chefs and cooks sometimes have fun and play with them, too. The dish is so beloved in France that there’s the Association de Sauvegarde de l’Œuf Mayo (ASOM), to make sure it stays in the public limelight, where it belongs.

Speaking of things beloved in France, the silky, sinful butter-enriched mashed pommes purée, which are subtitled “the best mashed potatoes” at Bistro Pierre Lapin, certainly were. A very hot pot of purée PDT (shorthand for pomme de terre purée) came to the table that was rich and rife with butter, and probably some cream, topped with cracked black pepper, which is Romain’s new favorite condiment. (I like it, but he wants to put it on everything, and this bistro agrees.)

Since we were there during corn season, once Romain discovered fresh corn, he wants nothing else to eat when we go to the U.S. in the summer. I can’t say I blame him on that one. That’s what I want, too.

Back in France, I’d been craving a Croque Monsieur, which is my version of “black pepper,” I guess, and I want it all the time. But who can argue with a fried ham and cheese sandwich, held together with béchamel, and a giant mound of superb frites?

The French fries that came with my Croque (which was a Madame, due to the addition of an egg on top) were excellent because, 1) They were fried until deep golden brown, and 2) They were fried in clarified butter. The latter was another American touch that I haven’t seen in France, but let’s hope it comes soon.

My Frenchman went for the Filet of beef with sauce Diane, a sauce made with pan juices that’s sometimes enriched with cream or butter, but here it was kept on the lighter side so it didn’t overwhelm the beef, which came out in an all-American portion. (So he took les restes home in le doggy bag.)

Dessert was an outstanding Pavlova with speckles of passion fruit seeds and pulp in between stars and swoops of meringue. I loved it.

We finished off with glasses of Calvados, which Julia insisted we try. Being a Francophile, she’s collected some impressive French liqueurs and spirits behind the bar, and I was happy to taste this French apple brandy with an apple in the bottle. The bottle is placed over the branch of the tree and the apple grows in it. Once it’s matured, the apple is snipped from the tree and remains in the bottle, which is filled with Calvados.

In Normandy, during a meal you’ll often have a glass of Calvados to create, what’s called, le trou Normand. It’s a small glass of the famed apple brandy between courses, to revive and restore your appetite. But I can’t say it works after dinner, as we hit the sack shortly after.

Bistro Pierre Lapin
99 Bank Street
New York
(212) 858-6600

A French bistro in New York City, offering the classics!

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31 comments

  • Juju Bains
    September 20, 2018 8:31am

    OMG! Gorgeous.

  • Cyndy
    September 20, 2018 9:27am

    Everything looks delicious. I could make a meal just out of that vegetable plate. And my husband has been looking for a croque monsieur here in SW France to equal those in Paris–no luck! How ironic if we have to go to the US to find one.

    I’m interested in how you took the picture of the table. I don’t think you were standing straight up, nor kneeling. So… crouching, maybe? I like taking pictures of beautiful tables set up, but I never get them right.

    • September 21, 2018 3:35pm

      I had to stop and really look at that picture too. I always take pictures of the window or up close at the place setting. But I like that wide view to take it all in at once. Well done, David!

  • September 20, 2018 9:34am

    Reading this while sitting at Nice airport definitely makes me want to NOT board my plane, and hop to the next Bistrot to order similar délicieux dishes

  • September 20, 2018 9:37am

    I wasn’t a fan of Calvados until I moved to France and discovered aged Calvados, which can taste like a fine whisky with overtones of apple. One of my very favorite producers is Domaine de Merval, which is actually a specialized high school (lycée) where the students learn about agriculture and the making of calvados and pommeau (a sweet apple brandy). They have several different bottlings of calvados, including a silky 10-year, but my favorite is their 6-year old “hors d’age”. We found them on a trip to Normandie a few years ago, and arranged for a tour on our second trip to the region. The school director is extremely kind and showed us the orchard, the stills, the barrel room, the whole shebang. What a treat!

  • Erika
    September 20, 2018 10:03am

    Tres Jolie,
    My husband and I are in France right now, we are sitting on our rented barge on the l’Oust in Malestroit, Brittany, having crossants and coffee, we will be strolling up to the Market, we have already spotted the stalls with paella, rotisserie chickens, cheese, fish, moules…, & of course the beautiful fruits and Vegtables. I did not expect the clothes and footwear. I will be purchasing the lovely pair of leopard slippers I looked at earlier. This is the second time we have rented a barge to cruise the rivers & canals in France. We just cleaned out our refrigerator so we can go buy our provisions for our last 4 days cruising through the beautiful countryside of Brittany. We will then head up to Normandy (We will look for the apple in the bottle)for a night, then to Paris for 3 nights. Thank you David for you posts and books, I love reading them all.

  • Mary Ward
    September 20, 2018 1:09pm

    We returned from Paris last week and your account of this restaurant has us missing all things Parisian. Luckily, we’ll be in New York in November and will definitely add this to our must-do list. Thank you for the tip.
    An aside, we found a lovely boutique hotel just off St. Germain on Rue Jacob called Millesime Hotel. Newly renovated with charm and a lovely staff, also very quiet.

  • Susan
    September 20, 2018 1:21pm

    Thank you for your review of this NYC restaurant that is everything I’d want of a Paris style bistro!! So nice that they kept the charming style as well, how nice not to go in yet another loud dark cavernous new restaurant. I hope they are continually successful, selfishly, so I can visit on a trip to NY.

  • September 20, 2018 3:07pm

    The food and the ambience all looks so good, I will put it on my list for the next time I visit New York. I love the vegetable plate.

  • ron shapley
    September 20, 2018 3:45pm

    This is not an “all day cafe”, as you reported.. Unfortunately, no lunch service.. Still, sounds and looks fabulous.

  • Max
    September 20, 2018 8:28pm

    What is the curd (?) layer in the Pavlova?

    • Martha Mast
      September 22, 2018 1:59am

      I was wondering the same thing. It looks more like a lemon meringue pie than a pavlova actually, but absolutely beautiful!

  • Pam
    September 20, 2018 10:33pm

    They had me at the table settings.

  • Ttrockwood
    September 21, 2018 6:09am

    Thank you so much for writing about this place! I actually live in NYC :)) however since i’m vegetarian often the french restaurants aren’t my first choice, but that vegetable salad assortment platter followed by the pavlova would make a wonderful meal!
    Initially the concept was an all day cafe, but now just dinner and weekends brunch

  • September 21, 2018 8:22am
    David Lebovitz

    Sharona: Even in France, calva can have an uneven reputation (likely because people often know only the low-grade stuff), but good Calvados is amazing and beautiful to drink.

    Trockwood + ron: Thanks for letting me know they’ve changed their hours. I’ll update.

  • Sherry
    September 21, 2018 10:49am

    It sounds like a place I would love to visit — I guess translated it means Bistro Pierre Rabbit?

    • Cyndy
      September 21, 2018 2:17pm

      Peter Rabbit Bistro!

  • Matt
    September 22, 2018 5:34pm

    Lovely report. But I was under the impression that Calvados taken between courses was the cause of le trou normand, not to fill it.

    • September 22, 2018 5:40pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it’s to create a hole (trou) – I edited it to clarify. thanks

  • Shira
    September 23, 2018 9:57am

    I have to agree with Romain about the black pepper. I add it to everything, even my morning oatmeal!

  • Gina Maria
    September 23, 2018 4:31pm

    Dear David,

    Thank you for posting interesting places and food. Love the way you explain your experiences.
    Since I follow you, like 9 years ago, I share the letters with my daughter. Now she is 17 years old an is applying to a culinary school in Europe. I appreciate if you can give opinions, specialty the City, since we’ve been looking for dorms at the same place. Anyway, any advice is welcome! Regards from SAP; HN.

  • I luv chicken
    September 24, 2018 4:14pm

    A million dollars to the person who invents the ability to eat digital food pictures.
    I should remember never to read your blog before having something in my stomach.
    Thanks for the story and pics.

  • Molly F. C.
    September 25, 2018 3:05pm

    Love the look of this place. My daughter is going to school in NYC. Going to make it my goal to take her here. Thanks, David!

  • Siri
    September 25, 2018 9:00pm

    We went for dinner after seeing this review and it was fabulous all-around – thank you!

  • Alexandra McNamee
    September 26, 2018 4:01am

    We also went to dinner there last Saturday after reading this review. What a lovely place, and quite busy for having been open only 4 months. We had a lovely chat with Julia about random foods they enjoy. Harold also came over as he did to several tables.
    We shared the Ravier because we have a small vegetable garden of our own and always look for ideas. Then a plate of boeuf bourguignon stuffed ravioli in a lovely light buttery sauce. We followed by the dessert we ordered of crème bruleed tapioca as that’s never on menu except for diner, but not comparable. Our server also brought us a Pavlova “on the House” because I had coveted it: beautiful, delicious air just like you implied. A perfect evening, and lovely people. Thank you for the review.

    • September 26, 2018 1:28pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you had a good time. ANd yes, the Pavlova is excellent! : )

  • Salli
    October 1, 2018 3:59pm

    On the basis of this piece, we went for dinner. It was awful! Very aggressive (and ill informed) waiter, very overpriced wine list, even for New York, and the food was heavy, and often tasteless. David, you would have been shocked. Maybe it was the chef’s night off. But it is a first time/last time for us.

    • October 4, 2018 9:21am
      David Lebovitz

      I’m sorry you didn’t have a positive experience at the restaurant. Our server was very nice; a young French woman who was quite shy, but lovely. We liked our food very much, and the cocktails, but thanks for leaving your feedback.

    • James Boyce
      October 17, 2018 8:54pm

      I am going to have to second this opinion. Went last night for my wife’s birthday and our first impression was a sigh of relief at being (almost) back in France, where we previously lived for 10 years.
      However, we got perhaps the same waiter (there was really only the one man taking orders) who, as Salli said was aggressive, ill-informed and deplorably mispronounced the specials which were written on the mirror in French. The wine list, unfortunately, is greatly over-priced, even by NYC standards, which was very discouraging. The loud music (and even louder clientele) soon erased our relief and reminded us that we were, in fact, in NYC (where restaurant noise levels compete with those in Beijing) and not Lyon or Paris.
      That said, the food was pretty good, albeit nothing really special or even bistro traditional.
      The young men who did the actual work of serving and clearing up were exceptional — kind, considerate and friendly in exactly the same way that I remember from our local bistros in Collonges, Farges and St. Genis-Pouilly. I made certain that they received the bulk of our gratuity.
      On a final note, the espresso served at the end was so extraordinarily good that I was glad it was four times the size of any I was ever served in France.
      Someone once said: “May you live in treating times.” and this was certainly one of those “interesting” experiences.

      But how I long for Le Perigord, La Mangeoire and the old incarnation of La Grenouille.

  • john burke
    October 5, 2018 4:35pm

    I keep hoping the owners will create a family of places including Flopseux, Mopseuse, and La Queue de Coton…

  • Gill
    October 11, 2018 2:22pm

    It all looks delicious, not least because of the excellent photography. Makes me long to visit French restaurants again (NY not being such an option from the UK). The eggs look particularly lovely, and I’m going to attempt a version. I really hope the bacon at Pierre Lapin was from happy outdoor pigs!