New York can smell a wannabe a mile away. So when chef/restaurateur Andrew Carmellini set out to take over a huge piece of real estate on Lafayette in NoHo to create a modern yet sumptuous “grand café,” no one knew that his big gamble would take over the dining scene and become the “new Balthazar.” Miles of windows on the corner of Lafayette Street and Great Jones help shine light on the dining room, rotisserie station, bar, bakery and café area that comprise the very ambitious Lafayette. There’s so much going on under one roof that the New York Times called it “an Eataly for Francophiles.” While we wouldn’t go that far, Carmellini and son equipe do everything to ensure that you go home blissfully satiated. While Balthazar sticks to tried-and-true bistro plates, at the expense of both creativity and seasonality, Lafayette gets its hands dirty at the Union Square Greenmarket turning out memorable starters like Escarole & Endive Salad with Duck Ham, Pomegranate Seeds and Truffle Vinaigrette and their Roasted Beet Root with Red Onions, Cashews and Bergamot Yogurt. And instead of frites and spinach for sides, they spoil us with dishes like Roasted Sunchokes with black truffle, hazelnuts and parmesan and fluffy Quinoa with baby turnips and mushrooms. We’d go to the grave happy if we enjoyed just one of Carmellini’s outstanding entrées- namely, the Black Fettuccine with Cuttlefish, ruby red shrimp, clams & chorizo. The house-made squid ink pasta comes bathed in just enough of the unctuous rendered chorizo fat so that there is spice and seafood in every bite. Pair that with a bottle of Bandol and you will have your memorable New York City restaurant moment, Provence by way of Lafayette.
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