Balthazar alums open a brasserie of their own

Balthazar alums open a brasserie of their own

Call it French New Wave.

New York is full of brasseries that can almost feel more Epcot Center than Paris, but Frenchette isn’t one of them.

Yes, the new Gaelic spot has red leather banquettes and wooden floors in the dining room, but there are also sleek, antique brass columns throughout and marble floors in the spacious bar area, lending an Art Deco feel to the place.

Chefs and co-owners Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr made a name for themselves at Keith McNally’s Balthazar and Pastis, but, at Frenchette, the vibe is more relaxed and playful.

‘We’re just putting things on the menu that we like, that you might not see every day.’

Pretty girls with their hair tied up in messy buns sit at the bar, mirroring the restaurant’s easy-going but lovely vibe. On the menu, there are straight-forward classics such as roast chicken and stewed rabbit, as well as twists such as duck frites (instead of the usual steak dish) and buttery, softly scrambled eggs topped with escargot. The wine list leans heavily on natural producers, not just from France, Spain and Italy — the usual suspects — but also from the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

“We’re just putting things on the menu that we like, that you might not see every day,” says Hanson, 51.

He and Nasr, 53, first met while cooking at Daniel in the early ’90s. The pair went on to work for McNally for 16 years, opening Balthazar with the famed restaurateur, and running his kitchens at Pastis, Schiller’s Liquor Bar and Minetta Tavern.

“We just see eye to eye on a lot of stuff,” Hanson says of teaming up with Nasr. “We like a lot of the same food [and] we’re [both] big hockey fans.”

They chef-duo split with McNally in 2013 and planned to take over the food operations at the Hotel Chelsea, but the deal eventually fell through. Now, at long last, they’ve opened their own restaurant, something they’ve dreamed about since their Daniel days.

“We first talked about opening a place together before we even met Keith,” Hanson says.

Frenchette is currently only open for dinner, but it will eventually be an all-day eatery. Lambs and pigs are butchered in-house, and the cuts on the menu change throughout the week. The name comes from the song “Frenchette” by the New York Dolls’ David Johansen.

“You call that love in French, but it’s just Frenchette,” the lyrics go.

Similarly, the restaurant itself doesn’t go all the way.

“There’s a casualness about it,” says Hanson. “We’re French, but we’re not quite French.” 241 W. Broadway; 212 334-3883, FrenchetteNYC.com

Brian Zak

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