320 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Phone 718- 935-1200
Better to describe 2 or 3 Things as a machine that morphs the colliding meanings of words and objects with dazzling speed, and generates an astonishing array of metaphors, paradoxes, digressions, and, above all, dialectical relationships, between idea and action, word and image, sound and picture, interior and exterior, microcosm and macrocosm. The swirling surface of a cup of coffee is transformed into the primordial ooze and also the infinite universe.
BAM is running a mini-film series devoted to Jean Luc Godard and Nagisa Oshima. Oshima is known as the J”apanese Godard.” Of course Oshima has said that he views Godard as the French Oshima! These film makers were leaders of the “New Wave” in France and Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. They created radical films and their own visual language. The festival compares these filmmakers side by side. It is intensely interesting.
Before the showing of “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” I had dinner at French Louie, which is about a 15 minute walk from BAM in Atlantic Avenue.
Where is the beginning? But what beginning? God created heaven and earth. But one should be able to put it better. To say the limits of language, of my language…are those of the world, my world…and in speaking I limit the world, I end it. And when the mysterious and logical death abolishes those limits…there will be, no question, no answer, just vagueness. But if things come into focus again…this can be through the rebirth of conscience. Everything follows from this.
Jean Luc Godard
Louis “French Louie” Seymour (1832-1915)
Mule driver. Lumberjack. Fisherman. Trapper. Happy hermit. Born in French Canada, young Louie Seymour ran away to America with the circus. He spent the rest of his long life in the Adirondacks, living off the abundance of the forest. Twice a year, Louie would emerge from the woods to eat and drink and paint the town red. He’d announce his arrival with animal hoots and howls, bringing all the children running. When the party was over, he’d settle his bar tabs with lake trout and beaver pelts. Widely beloved for his independent spirit and good cheer, he was known by all as “French Louie.”
French Louie is owned by Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo. Doug is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Ryan has worked at prestigious restaurants including Michael Mina in San Francisco and Al Forno in Providence. They are the owners of Buttermilk Channel which is one of Brooklyn’s most popular and acclaimed restaurants.
French Louie is their new restaurant. And it is a great one. After eating at over twenty bistros in New York in the course of working on this blog, this is one of my favorite bistros.
The menu has a few bistro standards but must offerings are in the school of “neo-bistro” but with a twist. There are American accents to a French neo-bistro menu. For example, snails “marchand de vin” are served with house cured bacon, oysters, stone ground grits and mushrooms. The chicory rubbed quail is served with pickled okra, and the roasted beets are served with pecans and mustard greens.
The steelhead trout (with smoked parsnips, black garlic, mushrooms, apple salad and sorrel jus) and the pan roasted cod (with squash confit, cauliflower, potato croquette and huckleberry) were tempting.
The menu includes three meat offerings (lamb leg, bavette steak and a dry-aged steak). The menu is somewhat limited but I prefer a few number of dishes that are prepared with detail and quality than a broad menu of mediocrity.
Interesting starters include roasted beets (with Asian pears, horseradish creme fraiche, toasted pecans and mustard greens) and the chicory-rubbed quail.
Deserts are classics but with American inspiration. Two standouts: the s’mores profiteroles (with smoked mushrooms, pine ice cream and caramelized chocolate sauce) and the apple tarte tatin ( with cheddar crust, oat crumble and maple ice cream).
I had the potato leek soup (with smoked trout, mustard creme fraiche and caraway).
My main was the pan-roasted cod (with kim chi, potato gratin and hollandaise sauce).
Since I do not eat meat (previously conceded this limits the depths of my reviews but I rely upon friends), I tend to order a fish or chicken dish. Frankly, the taste sensations of white fish are limited and range from bland to subtle. It is rare that a white fish dish (no matter the cut or the fish) is creative, unexpected, and stimulating.
How can a chef prepare a white fish dish that is exciting and creative?
How can a chef prepare a white fish that moves past the cliche of fish and vegetables?
French Louie pulled this remarkable feat off by serving the cod with kimchi. The cod was perfectly cooked: it was seared on the outside and flakey on the inside. The kimchi provided a complex interplay of sweet, sour, salt and chile flavors to the fish. The cabbage provided texture. It was excellent.
With the fish was a very light hollandaise sauce. This almost made me avoid the dish because this sauce is often dense, gummy and heavy. Not at French Louie. The sauce was delicate and supported the fish rather than overwhelming it.
The potato leek soup was extraordinary. It was presented in a layer of herbs, then caraway seeds, then mustard creme fraiche, then trout and then the soup. The trout brought salt, texture and smokiness against the white background of the potato leek foundation. The caraway seeds provided texture and accents. The soup could have been a little warmer but the temperature may have been intentional.
The only false note was the bread. It was dull and insipid. There was no reason to eat it so I did not. The waiter said their source was a local bakery; they should evaluate the quality of the bread.
The restaurant was designed by Joseph Foglia. The space has dark wood floors, Thonet chairs at the bar and in front room, modern brass lights, banquets and mirrors along one wall. There is a folksy black-and-white line drawing of trees and a cabin on one wall, created by illustrator Owen Brozman. It reminded me of a Dudley Do-Right cartoon. There is a small bar when you enter; locals paused after work. Thonet bar stools noted. The space is minimal, warm and inviting.
There is an outdoor backyard space that has long community tables and cheerful hanging light strands. It would be fun in the summer.
The music was jazz sounds from the 1960s. The light fixtures have a vaguely futuristic 1960s feel as well.
Apparently, both dishes I had were new additions to the menu. The maitre’d and several waiters dropped by to see how I liked the dishes. Not in a perfunctory way but they were genuinely interested in my experience. The took time to chat. The staff has heart and they cared.
Both the food and the staff were extraordinary.
French Louie was excellent and I recommend it highly!
Staff-9 (Professional, casual and caring.)
Archetype-4 (No references to the Archetype but that is not their intention. This is a neo-bistro in concept and design; from that point of view an 8. The patio looks great in the good weather.)
Food-9 (Creative; well executed; exciting. The bread failed)
Energy-9 (Positive; interactive. Good light and sight lines from the back patio. Noise level is low.)
Two or Three Things I Know About Her
Joseph Foglia Designs
Julia Childs Hollandaise Sauce Recipe