Just over two weeks ago, Andrew Carmellini (of The Dutch and Locanda Verde) opened his new French restaurant and bakery, Lafayette. The impressive interior has been beautifully redesigned from its prior Hong Kong style grandeur of the former Chinatown Brasserie into a glamorous, but less ostentatious, French “Grand Café”. Although it has only been open for about two weeks, and making a reservation was a mindless task, almost all of the tables were full at 1pm on a Friday. The noise level was pleasant and lively with light music in the background; warm lighting and big windows also enhanced the atmosphere.
We were quickly seated to a nice leather booth near the back. Our server was polite, attentive and quick to bring us water. During the course of our lunch there were a few errors but they were quickly remedied with a smile.
From the cocktail menu, the saisonniere ($14) is smooth and sweet with hints of orange and vanilla. Also available is a carafe of white wine for $12 or a glass of the same for $9, along with a large selection of other more expensive options.
We opted to share an appetizer, the tartine du jour, which consisted of delicious, fresh crab salad with a zesty aioli sauce served on a slightly over toasted piece of toast. It was two small pieces for $9 but the quality of the crab justified the price.
For our main course my friend ordered the black fettuccine with seafood ($21). The squid ink pasta was perfectly cooked and the shrimp, squid, and mini clams were fresh and well seasoned. As for the classic steak-frites ($25), the beef was juicy and had a unique earthy flavor and a nice herb sauce, but the texture was a bit tough. It came with a generous portion of lightly crisped (but not oily) shoestring fries. Sides, including the roasted carrots, are $8 each.
Considering we ordered an abundance of food for lunch, we decided to skip dessert and opt for a few cannelés to go– 3 for $4 – from the patisserie at the front.
Overall it was a great meal but a bit expensive for a student budget. The café at the front serves Stumptown coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and desserts for reasonable prices. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and they plan to serve breakfast and weekend brunch starting in early May.
Address: 380 Lafayette St (at Great Jones)
Hours of Operation: Lunch Mon-Fri noon-3:30pm; Sun-Wed 5:30pm-11pm; Thu-Sat 5:30-midnight