Tucked in the hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side, Antibes Bistro offers those who need an escape from the buzz of New York City to the quiet French countryside. Relatively unassuming, Antibes Bistro is a restaurant that needs to be found. Located on 116 Suffolk Street, off of East Houston, the French bistro is surprisingly down-to-earth. No haughty French accents here (unless if you count the owner, whose attentive French drawl lures you in the minute he whispers, “bonjour”). The space is typical of New York: small and cramped, but what Antibes lacks in space, the restaurant makes up for in ambiance. Teardrop lights weave in and out of the bistro, with tables – romantic for two or cozily-placed enough for an intimate party – scattered throughout the restaurant. If the usually temperamental New York weather subsides, the best seat in the house is – in fact – outside the restaurant, on the patio.
The bistro offers a rarity for most New Yorkers: reservations. Antibes allows patrons to make reservations up to 30 days in advance (call, or visit their website online) and despite the tiny setting, encourages larger parties to congregate inside the bistro. Adding to the unpretentious “je nais se quoi” French ambiance, Billie Holiday scat in the background with Louis Armstrong playing soft, undeterred trumpet solos. And while one would expect waiters at restaurants to scurry toward their patrons, the service at Antibes is fitting for the space. The serveurs, clad in black, float to each table, replenishing water in glass jugs and presenting each dish with an elegant dime of enthusiasm.
The food, is what I would consider French classiness meets countryside home cooking. The Guinness braised short ribs – cooked so tenderly – melts on the plate before it can be devoured. But there is juxtaposition: within the sophistication of the short ribs, the potato gratin offers a grainy texture to the ribs. The plates are not large, by any means, but with the glass of Chardonnay you will order, along with Antibes’ chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, you will feel fulfilled.
The romantic nature of French bistros is carried on by Antibes, but without the pretension. Groups who are looking to have intimate dinner parties or couples looking for a semi-fancy date night out, the bistro offers just the right amount of“oh lah lah,” without emptying your pockets.