Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Frère de Lys is a French restaurant located on the Upper East Side that discovered last week end. I met with two of the owners of this place Alexis and Thibault Piettre, who before that worked in other restaurants in New York, before fulfilling the dream to open their own restaurant. Their mother was even there and chat proudly about this adventure. I was intrigued by the name as it seems to be a play on fleur de lys (iris flower), a symbol of monarchy in Europe; According to French historian Georges Duby, the three petals represent the medieval social classes: those who worked, those who fought, and those who prayed (source: wikipedia).
Alexis told me that they are not royalist at all, but wanted to celebrate the renaissance period, their renaissance and as he and his brother have a fleur de lys tattooed on their arms, they thought about Frère de Lys as the name to their new adventure, frère meaning brother in French.
Decor wise, it is a simple place with a lot of warmth thanks to the dark wood of the tables, chairs and long banquette, keeping a touch of modernity.
At the entrance is the bar with its bulbs that give a vintage feel.
Then, the dining room, simply decorated.
With of course a photo of an iris in the back.
Menu wise, do not expect to see a bistro type menu: there are no escargots, no confit de canard and no steak frites. There, the menu has classic French dishes, modernized and sometimes changed with an American twist. Know that we were there for a tasting, so the portions were smaller that what is shown on the actual menu. In fact, they were perfect portions for sharing and trying plenty of dishes and, who knows, their menu may include smaller dishes at some point!
Like any good French menu, it started with bread (toasted and served with olive oil) and wine. I got to try two wines:
The first one was a château de la sèlve palissaire 2012:
The second one was a Domaine du Colombier Chinon 2010:
I went for the Chinon.
Then, we chose three appetizers:
Roasted figs and prosciutto, that is one of their best sellers:
The tiny figs were topped with goat cheese and complimented with arugula, all of this drizzled with a house vinaigrette.
I thought it was a nice pairing and I loved the combination of the fig, with its particular texture, and goat cheese. It was definitely a good start.
The next appetizer was smoked eggplant gratin:
It was made with ricotta and a homemade tomato sauce. Considering the way it was prepared, I would more associate this dish to Italian cuisine. It was very good, letting the eggplant be the star of the dish, and it was very comforting.
The last appetizer was the veggie and quinoa tartine:
A tartine is a slice of bread with a spread or ingredients on top. At Frère de Lys, they propose few of them, with for instance prosciutto or smoked salmon. But we decided to go for the veggie and quinoa as we were intrigued by this vegetarian option. What was interesting with this dish is that it was simple: bread, cucumber and quinoa, served with arugula salad on the side. But as simple as it was, it was very good and filling, the cucumber adding a nice cooling and freshness to the dish.
For the entrees, we picked three:
The pan seared chicken, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, haricots verts (string beans), mushrooms, tarragon and mustard sauce. This was delicious: the chicken was perfectly cooked and moist, and the sauce delightful but not heavy. The mash potatoes were homemade and I truly appreciated the fact that it was not garlic-ey. The haricots verts were interesting: they were crunchy, that is the way veggies are cooked in the US, but not in France, where they would be cooked longer, until very soft, probably in a bit of butter. The two brothers disagree on the way they should be cooked: Alexis prefers the French way (as I do) and Thibault the way they are served.
The second appetizer was the rack of lamb:
It was served also with haricots verts and sweet potato. The lamb was good, but unfortunately a bit overcooked; I did not really care about the red wine reduction that came with it as the meat was still moist. I loved the fact that it was paired with a sweet potato that was simply cooked in the oven before being sliced in half and served: simple and delicious.
The last entree was a vegetarian dish that was definitely a high point: paleo zucchini pasta.
Imagine zucchini shredded like thick pasta, served with an avocado cream sauce. That was a fantastic dish, between the crunchiness of the zucchini to the richness of the avocado. Full of flavors, this is the type of dish that even a carnivore like me would like.
Last was dessert, eaten with a decaf espresso.
We got a sampler that is normally not proposed on the menu (all restaurants should have a sampler - wink, wink!), with the slices of tarts being smaller than usually served.
We got to try:
The flour less chocolate cake:
The pear and rosemary tart:
The grand-mère apple and honey cake:
All the desserts, made on premises, were really good and not too sweet, my favorite being the last one. But I admit that the pear and rosemary was quite surprising as pear is a common ingredient for a tart, but rosemary is not, and there was just enough quantity to give a subtle taste to the tart.
I was ready to go when they propose a glass of mirabelle from Alsace, the region in France where the brothers are from. I could not refuse...
It is an eau de vie, that is a clear fruit-based spirit (made with mirabelle plum in this case) perfect for the digestion.
Although the dishes were not heavy, I needed a walk after that feast: the food was delicious and well presented. The menu, with seasonal dishes is not large, that is perfect as it is better to have a small menu well executed than a large menu poorly made. I truly appreciated the fact that they had vegetarian dishes that did not look or taste like sides, but really like complete dishes that would satisfy anybody and not just vegetarians. I also loved the atmosphere of the restaurant: with its neighborhood feel, it reminded me some of the small joints I used to go to in Paris, where you feel welcome and in a way part of a family. This is of course thanks to the dynamism and warmth of the two brothers, Alexis and Thibault. Frère de Lys is definitely worth a trip to the Upper East Side! Chapeau!
Enjoy (I did)!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!