French dining has experienced a bit of a revolution in New York. New restaurants in this culinary category are presenting menus that include dishes far more unusual than escargot, tartes flambées, and coq au vin. This week, Pete Wells of The New York Times reviewed one such restaurant, Claudette, and although he mostly enjoyed his experience of the eatery, he sensed the kitchen was playing it safe.
Wells makes it clear that this is Modern French Cuisine before detailing any of the fare, generalizing the food as “light, approachable and unlikely to impair your ability to stand up at the end of the meal.” He highlights some of the salads and characterizes them as “intelligent, and “unexpected.” The pleasant surprises continue as details the bistro-style fries and their seasoning, which leads him to explain that what makes the menu unique is that “Claudette’s chef, Wade Moises, and chef de cuisine, Koren Grieveson, have made a smart decision about Provence. Rather than treating it as if it were frozen in time and sealed off from the world — Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence repeated forever — they cast a few glances at the North African immigrants who live and cook there.” The food reflects not just new trends in French Cuisine, but the steadily-shifting new French culture.
Where Moises and Grieveson falter, in Wells’ opinion, is their seeming reluctance to showcase the depth of their restaurant’s culinary ethos. He feels the chefs play it safe, and he does not hesitate to call them out on it, lamenting that “Claudette’s exploration of Provence can be undercut by its impulse to play it safe.” He seems to encourage the kitchen to delve more deeply into the fusion they appear to only dip their toes into, but in the end, he concedes, “Most of the time, though, the kitchen does what it sets out to do, even if it seems to be holding back.”