NYC Restaurants

Bistro du Vent

CLOSED!

411 West 42nd Street (off 9th Avenue)
New York, NY, 10036
212-239-3060 Map

Cuisine: French

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Cititour Review:
When I left Bistro du Vent—David Pasternack and Mario Batali’s new French bistro around the corner from their crudo-shrine Esca—I decided to go on a diet. A cabbage diet. Well, actually a Cabbage Simmered with Chestnuts and Cider diet. Hmm….Does that count as a diet? Is that like going on a Kit Kat diet? Well, who cares, I am doing it anyway. Pasternak serves the tender braised cabbage leaves in a small cast iron pan, which makes the dish appear quite ordinary and gives you not the slightest inkling of what lurks beneath its humble exterior. Well, this cabbage has some might. It is hearty and almost kraut-like, with a sweet, zippy vinegary tang that is given some depth and texture from nutty nuggets of glazed chestnuts. I hoped the dish would never end.

But there’s more to Bistro du Vent—a convivial, simply dressed, garnet-accented bistro with a warm heart—than just that mild-mannered cabbage with a super hero bite.

To begin with, there’s the Kir menu at the bar. You choose sparkling (Royale) or white wine (regular old Kir), and then select a fruit syrup from a list that includes classic currant (from the Hudson Valley), peach, blackberry, and strawberry. The syrups are served in tiny little glass pitchers alongside your wine or champagne, so you can add as much or as little as you like. Adorable.

The menu of Kirs reminded me of a trip I took many years ago to visit my friend Jenny who lives in Paris. We had planned to meet at a bistro one evening after work, and I arrived early, went to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Bad move. The bartender looked at me like I had just landed. “A glass of wine?” he said, with a tone that said “Oh these horrible Americans! When will they be banned from our country?” (I think we are sort of banned now, aren’t we?) I wasn’t quite sure what the issue was with ordering a glass of wine, and so I asked for it again. He didn’t say anything, and just turned and walked away, hoping, I am sure, that I would just shrivel up and disappear, like an unsightly wart. Jenny arrived just then, took one look at me sitting at the bar without a drink, and said, “Why don’t you have a drink? Wait! You didn’t ask for a glass of wine did you? Oh no.” She explained, in a voice used by frustrated parents to misbehaving children, that before dinner in Paris, you don’t drink wine. “Darling,” she said, “Before dinner, you drink a Kir. Wine is only ordered when you sit down at your table.” Oh dear, I was so gauche. This was the first of many Paris lessons I would learn that weekend. Others included: smoke everywhere (a problem since I don’t smoke); drink coffee everywhere (a problem because I was not used to French coffee); and don’t smile anywhere (a problem because I tend to smile when I am happy, and I was very happy in Paris.) To sum up, I was a complete and utter failure as a French person.

Anyway, back at the bar Bistro du Vent in New York City, I knew better than to order a glass of wine, and instead, ordered a blackberry Kir. My friend Janet, a super fit Exhale junkie who practices Core Fusion and lives on fruit shakes, ordered the peach. She tasted hers, while eying my pitcher of blackberry syrup. After a second or two she reached over and swiped my pitcher of blackberry, and said, “I am think I am going to make a Kir smoothie,” as she drizzled the rest of my dark fruit syrup into her peach Kir Royale. Clever. And actually it was pretty good. Go on. Order them all and make your own boozie smoothie. Have fun. It’s allowed.

Once we sat down to dinner at our table, we moved onto wine, and while the list of bottles is terrific, Bistro du Vent also has such a nice selection of reasonably priced pichets (think quartino’s but French, $8-$12), and we went for a couple of these. As we were deciding what to order from a menu of dishes that all sounded great—Housemade Berkshire Sausage with Pistachios, Madeira, and Lentils du Puy ($14), Cod Caked with Brased Greens, Anchovy, Egg and Breadcrumbs ($17), Spit-Roasted Pork Loin with Galic, Cloves, Long Pepper and green Peppercorn Jus ($20)—I looked around the dining room, at tables of friends, dates, and colleagues digging into thick juicy steaks, bronze-skinned chickens, tufted salads of frisee au lardons, and teetering piles of crisp golden frites. As their meals went by, the divine guilty pleasure aroma of just fried potatoes hung heavy in the air—forget perfume, bottle that—and my stomach started to growl. This place was making me hungry.

We started our meal with Boudin Blanc ($8)— housemade chicken and sweetbread sausage served with sauerkraut and a caddy of mustards and cornichons. The fat link had a nice snap on the outside, and while it was a tad too soft on the inside for my taste, it took well to the piquant kraut and Dijon mustard and was quickly demolished. The House-Smoked Tuna ($11) is a wonderful dish that takes tuna out of the ordinary (tired) realm of sashimi, carpaccio or tartare. (YAY!) Pasternack serves generous slices of dark and silky red tuna—lightly smoked so the flavor is more like a sheer veil than a heavy opaque fabric—with a refreshing salad of blood oranges, fennel and watercress. We also had the Grilled Shrimp with Panisse and Chickpea Vinaigrette ($11)—three amazingly juicy head-on shrimp served with a silver dollar sized chickpea cake dressed in a fabulous lemony vinaigrette that was sort of like a thin version of hummus.

Then came that perfectly cooked cabbage which we paired with Pasternak’s Spit-Roasted Lamb Shank with Moroccan Spices ($20). (Make a mental note to order something from the in-house spit. Pasternack offers organic chicken, pork loin, or lamb shank—each roasted until tender and lacquered to perfection in an a spit that resembles a fire-breathing armoire—a glass-doored closet with shelves of fire.) The shank—about the length of the distance from your wrist to your elbow—is spit-roasted until moist, flaking off the bone, and smacked with intense flavor. It is glorious, and the perfect cold weather meal. In fact, though I hate to say this, it is the sort of dish that makes you want winter all year long. Who needs warm weather and light summer meals delicately plated with asparagus and peas when you can have that shank? Bring on the snowy weather! Forget that groundhog and his shadow! We cleaned the shank of all its deliciously moist meat and returned a naked plate (save the bone) to the kitchen. I was ready to go back and kiss the executive chef (Lawrence DiJoseph), but thought the better of it considering we had never met before, and I didn’t want to be arrested or ejected from the restaurant. If I do meet him, I plan on kissing him (or at least thanking him), if he lets me.

More kissing was due to the chef when dessert arrived. We loved the Spit Roasted Pineapple—sort of like a tarte tatin without the tart dough—topped with this wild Pepto-Bismol colored scoop of pink peppercorn ice cream that left a little fire of spice on the tip of my tongue. Come on, you have to kiss someone after that.

Anyway, despite the fact that I kissed no one that night, I liked Bistro du Vent for many reasons. First, the food and the vibe are in sync. Both are approachable, easy, and absolutely unpretentious. Second, the menu is reasonably priced and the food is the sort that appeals to your gut—it makes you hungry and then happy. There’s nothing off the wall—it’s just earthy, honest fare that ranges from good to kiss-the-chef great. When you’ve got this formula down right (especially in the theater district), there’s really no need for more. Plus, you can make a boozie smoothie from your Kir. Now, you can’t do that in Paris.

Review By: Andrea Strong

Neighborhood: West 40s

Hours: Dinner is served until 2am Mon-Sat; closed Sundays. Lunch starts Feb 28. Beginning March 6th they will be open 7 days a week.

Entree Price: $20-25


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