Buvette is a place that is defined by its smallness; everything is small on purpose. Walking into the darkened West Village restaurant is like going down the proverbial rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland – you are instantly transported to a place far, far away from the largess of New York City. Make no mistake, this place is still very NY.
On the Saturday night that I visited the tiny place that seats no more than 50, it was fully packed with a hub of people standing by the bar. Luckily, my date and I had no problem getting a seat even though Buvette does not take reservations. We were seated between some young women enjoying a girls’ night out and several glasses of wine and an older couple who slowly scrutinized tonight’s chalkboard’s menus offerings in the dim light. Steak tartare and braised rabbit seemed to be some of the selections tonight, but we had already eaten and weren’t hungry. Our very French waiter was quick to entice us with the night’s wine selection, but we didn’t come for drinks, we came for dessert— chocolate mousse to be exact. We did note the vast wine selection that’s sorted by varieties from the different regions of France. A visual depiction of France’s wine regions provided a charming backdrop for our dining experience on a neatly drawn blackboard behind us. Since we both drank alcohol earlier, we knew we’d have to enjoy the wine at another time. We ordered coffee instead; a cappuccino and an Americano and one order of the simple yet decadent chocolate mousse.
Glancing around Buvette, you can’t help but notice the owner’s meticulous attention to detail in little touches like the oversized vases filled with fruit juxtaposed between the bottles of wine on the wall; the wait staff dressed in immaculately white freshly pressed apron looking like little French paper dolls; precious oval glasses of water our waiter offered us right before he brought out our dessert and coffee.
The chocolate mousse adorned with a generous serving of freshly whipped cream managed to garner the attention of both of the tables next to us. The girls stopped their endless chatter to whisper approvingly to each other, “that looks good.” The elderly couple’s gaze lingered, as we were about to dig in. The dessert was incredibly rich and perfectly balanced with the very strong coffee – not too sweet, not too bitter, just right, just so. We left quickly to catch a late movie, but we vowed to come back again with our French friend who no doubt would love this place.
This is a great place for an intimate date, a small group dinner (I heard their breakfast is fantastic too) or a quick bite before a show. Your best bet is to go around 7 p.m. since the place fills up fast, but even if you have to wait, it will be worth it to have everything served to you just so.