by Louise, Director of Operations
Greenwich Village is not lacking in restaurants. In fact, it is fairly overwhelming to make even a simple food choice, whether you’re looking for pizza, a bagel, or an ice cream cone – the sheer volume of options can leave even the hungriest visitor feeling a bit lost. When you’re looking for a nice, relaxed sit-down meal it can be even tougher.
Allow me to narrow it down for you: next time you find yourself in the West Village, you’ll want to check out La Villette. This newcomer to the Village restaurant scene occupies a cozy, beautifully lit space at 10 Downing Street filled with rich reds and clean whites. The warm ambience is complemented nicely and unexpectedly by lively, pulsing music that is remarkably unobstrusive despite being not unlike the style you’d hear in a club.
We were warmly greeted by charismatic owner of La Villette, Angelo Peruzzi, upon our arrival and led to a fantastic table that offered a view of the whole restaurant and the floor to ceiling windows looking out on 6th avenue. We started with a couple of the restaurant’s signature cocktails – refreshing, invigorating and expertly-crafted – while we pondered the menu and discussed how many of the enticing selections we could dare to try in one sitting.
For our first course, Chef Christophe Bonnegrace brought us one of his signature dishes: Le Poireaux Vinagrette Janick (slow braised leeks with mustard vinagrette). The presentation of this dish is simple, clean and elegant, and the flavors match. It’s the perfect way to whet the appetite and start off a wonderful meal. Next, out came a selection of seafood, all expertly prepared (unsurprising considering Chef Bonnegrace’s upbringing in Provence). The tiger shrimp with lemon and cayenne pepper was particularly fantastic – the shrimp perfectly tender and the cayenne offering exactly the right amount of spice to make the flavors pop without overwhelming our palates. Dishes like these always make me particularly joyful – a few simple ingredients are all you really need to make magic happen, and many chefs tend to forget that.
Next up was a selection of house-made charcuterie. The pate de campagne was incredibly delicate for a country-style pate, and the foie gras terrine made my day, especially when I paired its rich lushness with the perfectly sweet fig compote that arrived along with it. I could have eaten several of these terrines, and I’m sure I will when I visit again in the future.
For our entrees, we sampled two of La Villette’s signature dishes – La Lapin a La Moutarde (braised mustard rabbit with green olives) and a cajun-rubbed chicken breast served with french fries and a side of beurre blanc, poured over the chicken tableside. The rabbit was tender supple with wonderful flavor, complemented beautifully by the accompanying mustard sauce. This is a classic dish in Provence, but one that many Americans may never have tried. If you haven’t had rabbit, this is the way to try it for the first time. There is no doubt that Chef Bonnegrace knows how to highlight its natural deliciousness that is really unlike any other meat. The chicken could be considered a fairly mainstream dish, but the addition of the beurre blanc really sends it over the top, taming the cajun spice and bringing out the chicken’s underlying sweetness.
But oh – we were far from done with our meal as of course, you can’t dine at a French brasserie without dessert. Two French classics were presented to us – a simple but perfect crème brulee (nothing irks me more than when chefs add unnecessary flavoring to crème brulee, as it is absolutely perfect in its essence) and a gorgeous apple tart, the puff pastry crust perfectly crisp and supple without a hint of toughness. By this point we were well into happy food delirium, but when our server mentioned cheese I just couldn’t say no. Cheese is a serious weakness for me, and based on the impeccable selections we’d seen so far I had a good feeling that this would be a cheese plate worth sticking around for, and I was absolutely right. The board features five phenomenal French cheeses, with portions much more generous than what you often see (another pet peeve of mine). We lingered over the plate and a final glass of wine for a long time, already so sated but knowing we weren’t going anywhere until that cheese was gone.
As we prepared to leave, we noted with little surprise that four and a half hours had passed since we’d arrived. That’s just the kind of place La Villette is – you can get lost in the food and ambience for ages, barely aware that the time is passing. So be careful if you have theater tickets, or better yet – make your reservation when you don’t have anywhere else to be, take off your watch, turn off your phone and enjoy.
Want to try out La Villette for yourself? Feel free to contact me for your preferred reservation!
Check out La Villette’s amazing New Year’s Eve menus below!