Although open only a scant two weeks, Brasserie Cognac is already throbbing with eager diners. The space is stylish and elegant with pale gray upper walls and a darker gray beneath, separated by a dark red chair rail with a graceful, if slightly challenging spiral staircase leading to the upstairs seating area. (Many tables and a handsome bar are on the street level.) The upper level boasts a shimmery ceiling and vibrant purple walls and there is a fireplace on each level that will be welcome come cold weather. Service by waiters in classic black and white with the “cognac” logo embroidered discretely on the lower part of their aprons is efficient and professional although the attractive dinner hostess is a bit spacey.
Food is the classic bistro variety, nicely prepared. The bread is great and the butter comes as a flat, round disc. The taste of my mussels meniere, served with hand cut fries, could not be faulted but the portion tended towards the skimpy and some of the mussels were on the small side. The salad Nicoise doesn’t include grilled tuna unless you spring for an eight dollar surcharge, although it’s fresh and delicious. The halibut got high marks as did the steak frites. All manner of burgers are available as is a full range of classic French bistro favorites: onion soup; gougieres (small cheese puffs); roast chicken with tarragon and a lobster salad that people at the next table were raving about. House-made desserts include profiteroles drenched in terrific dark chocolate, a great finale to the meal, although the Coconut Shell with bitter chocolate, coconut sorbet and “exotic’ fruit salad also looked great.
There are daily specials, for instance, coc au vin on Mondays and bouillabaisse on Fridays. An outside dining area will open shortly so you will be able to enjoy the outdoor ambiance of scenic 70th street, a pretty block. Right now Cognac serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and also does take-out although part of the fun of the place is the atmosphere. There’s a $29.95 prix fixe lunch served from 11:30 AM until 4:30 P.M and a $32.95 prix fixe brunch that includes drinks like Mimosa, Bloody Mary, Bellini and plenty of non-alcoholic choices.
The wine list is extensive and “reasonably” priced, especially for the neighborhood that’s home to a moneyed crowd that eats out frequently. There is a large selection of wines by the glass, aperitifs and dessert wines and bottles, largely from France with others from the rest of the world. You can also find a generous assortment of the restaurant’s signature beverage as well as French beers and sparkling wines.
The whole experience is very Parisian and nicely executed. Right now, Brasserie Cognac is very busy—my guess is that, as time passes, it will be mobbed and on the noisy side. Still, it’s a welcome addition to the area and executive chef Florian Hugo has done a fine job bringing a no surprises, French vibe to an appreciative ‘hood.