Thursday, April 08, 2010
It's fitting that Antibes Bistro, a Southern French-Mediterranean restaurant, is on the Lower East Side. After all, the Cote d'Azure is geographically the lower east side of France, right? All right, it's a stretch.
I was alerted to the place thanks to a Chowhound who responded to my request for leads on new, moderately priced downtown restuarants. I had specifically asked about restaurants in the East Village or Lower East Side that opened within the past two years and featured entrees under $20. When I saw the Antibes Bistro menu I was determined to try it soon.
With its mix of French, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, the menu reminds me a bit of an old favorite, now gone, Le Tableau. In fact, the menu features several items familiar from Le Tableau (e.g., chicken under brick and salmon with phyllo pastry), which makes me wonder whether the owner or chef were ever connected with that establishment. Either way, Antibes Bistro is a delight, and a great bargain to boot.
An appetizer of lamb boulettes ($9) with eggplant, pine nuts, tahini and harissa oil was certainly more Middle Eastern than French, and certainly delicious.
For my main course I chose the pan seared tuna ($16). It was served atop a saffron parsnip puree with caramelized leeks and greens. It was a generous portion, and my only complaint was that it came medium rather than my requested medium-rare.
Sides, though by no means necessary considering the accompaniments included with main courses, are very reasonably priced, and the rich Parmesan risotto ($5) can easily be shared by two or even three. The haricots verts ($3) were over-salted, unfortunately.
Up to this point dinner was excellent, enough to ensure a return visit, but I had no idea that the dessert would be such a blockbuster that it would overshadow everything else.
It's not especially photogenic, but the halvah kattaifi ($6) is a dessert to remember. This is another nod to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Kattaifi (0r katayifi, kataifi, kadayif) is a shredded wheat pastry found in Turkey, Greece and the Middle East, often served with honey, sometimes with cream. The Antibes Bistro creation takes the kattaifi, layers it with Mascarpone blended with espresso, tops it with sesame halvah threads that mirror the wheat shreds, and throws in a bit of pomegranate molasses.
I shared the appetizer, dessert and sides with a friend, but on average three full courses should average about $30 (the most expensive entree is the $18 steak). That's cheaper than a Restaurant Week dinner, and better than many.
Antibes Bistro is a welcome addition to the Lower East Side restaurant scene. And if you do dine there, you have to get the kattaifi. In fact, there should be a law.
112 Suffolk St. (Between Rivington and Delancey)