La Defense Bistro
2 Metrotech Center
Brooklyn, New York 11201
If direction is a look, montage is a heartbeat…what one seeks to foresee in space, the other seeks in time….Cutting on a look is…to bring out the soul under the spirit, the passion behind the intrigue, to make the heart prevail over the intelligence by destroying the notion of space in favor of that of time.
Jean Luc Godard
Beingless beings. Stop! Throb always without you and the throb always within. Your heart you sing of. I between them. Where? Between two roaring worlds where they swirl, I. Shatter them, one and both. But stun myself too in the blow. Shatter me you who can.
James Joyce, Ulysses
Over the last six months I have pursued a deep dive into the films of
Jean Luc Godard. After watching a series of Hitchcock films I read Hitchcock/Truffaut. This book was produced by Truffaut and was based upon a film made in 1962 where the two directors sat in a conference room and discussed movies.
Truffaut connects to Godard through the French New Wave but I found Godard much more interesting. I began watching Godard movies and then doing extensive research into the meaning of the movie. I read much critical analysis of Godard. I discovered Richard Brody’s masterpiece on Godard: “Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard.”
I am interested in the way that Godard has deconstructed cinema. He created a new visual language by deconstructing film in much the same way that Joyce created a new literary form by deconstructing language. Who but Godard could film Ulysses?
I have watched fourteen Godard films so far. They are brilliant, challenging, multi-dimensional, maddening, and strange. They are absolutely worth the time that I spend in understanding them. Few can equal Godard as an image maker. His contributions to sound design are profound.
BAM is running a series exploring Godard and Nagisa Oshima. Oshima is a new wave Japanese filmmaker and is known as the “Japanese Godard.” The concept of the series is to compare these radical filmmakers side by side.
On my way to see Tout Va Bien, I had dinner at La Defense Bistro. It is located in the Jay Street-MetroTech neighborhood in downtown Brooklyn. It is the nation’s largest urban academic-industrial research park. The bistro is located at the street level of 2 MetroTech Center and is on the Myrtle Promenade.
La Defense is a huge business district just west of Paris. Most of it was built in the 1960s and 1970s but expansion has continued. It is the largest business district in Europe. It was named after the iconic statue La Défense de Paris by Louis-Ernest Barrias. It was erected in 1883 to commemorate the soldiers who defended Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.
Perhaps the owners of the bistro chose La Defense as their name because it is located in the MetroTech business center in New York?
The dining room is to the left when you enter. To the right is a bakery that offers breakfast and lunch but it closed in the evening. On the way to the dining room you pass a horseshoe bar area. It was beginning to fill with the after-work happy hour crowd from MetroTech. The dining room has a large community table in the center and one wall is decorated with 1970’s album covers and photographs. Some of the tables have Thonet chairs; others have metal folding chairs or white plastic chairs.
Three walls are glass and open to the Promenade. The space feels airy and light. Even though the weather was cold and gloomy, like Paris in the winter, the inside of the cafe felt warm and cheerful.
Music was 1970’s soul played at a listening level. Otis Redding, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green.
The staff was young, casual and French. It felt like they were the children of the owners of the bistro. The service was surprisingly professional for all of its apparent looseness.
Since I was there early for the Godard movie, I took advantage of the happy hour prices. I paid $7.00 for a pleasant Bordeaux. I had another.
The menu is traditional bistro offerings, with such standards as Waldorf salad, goat cheese toast, and roasted pears and prosciutto for appetizers. The mains feature oysters, mussels and French fries, pistachio crusted salmon, hanger steak, and beef bourguignon with sautéed mushrooms. Deserts include apple tart and vanilla ice cream, creme brulee and chocolate cake.
La Defense offers a monthly special where it showcases a traditional French menu and wine paring. February, for example, is: frisee salad (with bacon, croutons, poached egg and mustard dressing), traditional coq au vin, and a crepe suzette served with flambe. All this for $28 and $43 with a wine paring.
The bread came in a brown paper bag (recycled) but, unfortunately, there was no reason to eat the bread. Flavorless and dull.
The French onion soup was good. It was baked in the traditional brown crockery bowl; it was presented on an attractive blue slate stone. The broth was dark as it should be, the onions were firm and flavorful as they should be, and the croutons were firm and not soggy. The cheese was Gruyere and Swiss.
It was not as good as the gold standard Odeon but it was better than most.
What distinguishes an excellent onion soup from a mediocre one? Experts say it is the onions and the broth, and many do not feel that a dark broth is the signature of the best onion soup. Dark broth can turn heavy and bitter. The onions must be perfectly caramelized to create that sweet flavor to counter the broth. Many bistros cook the onions to long and they lose their sweetness. See the articles below for discussion of the nuances of French onion soup.
The cod arrived served on top of a criss-cross of asparagus and green beans. On top of the cod were tangerine slices and herbs. The vegetables were crunchy and retained their structure and flavor. The fish was cooked properly; the tangerine slices provide an aesthetic and culinary counterpoint. Well done.
Staff-7 (Friendly and casual; good timing.)
Archetype-6 (The community table, the Thonet chairs and the menu reflect the Archetype. But lighting, location and vibe were modern cafe. )
Food-7 (Good but not creative; the bread failed)
Energy-8 (Large windows open to Promenade; community table and pleasant feel. Soul music was unusual but enjoyable. Bar is popular but noise level was low.)
Oshima X Godard: BAM
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