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Casimir Restaurant
103 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 358-9683‎

{Google Maps | Website}

The East Village of New York City is often an enigma to me.  It’s far enough off the subway lines to be secluded enough to house a number of what we like to call “hidden gems” – more so than other out of the way locales like the Upper East Side.  Ten years ago the East Village was just turning from the gritty birthplace of punk rock to a hip, trendy neighborhood, and at the same time Casimir was opening its doors for the first time. 

As the resident French restaurant early on in the emerging East Village scene, owner/host Guillaume Blestel has carefully created a dining experience reminiscent of the off-the-beaten-path, family-run bistros that dot Paris’ back alleys.  Blestel, who also owns Zebulon, a café and performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, turned to executive chef Blair Hanelt to create a menu of classics and new dishes with a decidedly French feel.  You’ll remember why you loved French Onion Soup after tasting Casimir’s version, with each spoonful featuring a harmonizing soup to bread to cheese ratio.  Salads are also a great way to start your meal with refreshing offerings that range from the simple (Mixed Greens) to Gallic-inspired delights such as the new DaBarry (fennel, radicchio, mesclun, asparagus, green beans and truffle oil dressing), or favorites like the Rambuteau (sautéed chicken liver and sweet shallots over greens), Escartefigue (marinated goat cheese, eggplant caviar, red pepper confit) and Carpaccio (raw beef tenderloin with parmesan, virgin olive oil and arugula).  You can make a meal out of the restaurant’s Paysan Bites, including Casimir Country Pate, Escargots Provencal and Smoked Herring or Grilled Garlic Sausage, both served with warm potato salad.

Tonight my wife & I opted for some traditional dishes.  She started with the Escartefigue salad with marinated goat cheese, eggplant caviar, and red pepper confit for $9, then moved on to the Pan Seared Grouper With A Tomato Saffron Broth, Zucchini, Carrots & Asparagus for $18.  The Grouper was actually a substitute for Striped Bass.  An inferior substitute?  Hardly.  The grouper was flaky and delicious, and perfectly cooked.  “I love the broth,” she declared.

Steak Tartare

I started with a glass of white Cote Du Rhone which if you’ve never tried it, tastes light & citrusy, not unlike a Sauvignon Blanc but with more bite.  Much richer.  Fantastic!  I started with a traditional Nicoise Salad with tuna – a special on tonight’s menu, and special indeed.  Entrees at Casimir all look delicious on paper, except to my wife.  The thought of Steak Tartare made her ill, but when the waitress recommended it to me, I couldn’t resist.  It was served with fries and greens for $18.  It was perfectly uncooked – slightly spicy, fresh, and creamy.  The wife even tried a bite – and liked it!

Other entrees include Filet Mignon (with black pepper cognac sauce), Steak Frites and Steamed Mussels in white wine.  A decadent Terrine de Foie Gras (with croutons and frisee) is a great take on a French delicacy.  There’s also Murray, a brand new chicken dish (organic free-range honey glazed Moroccan spiced chicken with apricot–olive relish and couscous), Duck Confit (with garlic roasted potatoes and frisee) and “La Frioule, Casimir’s rich fish bouillabaisse.  Penne de Jardin (with seasonal vegetables and truffle oil) and Vegetable Couscous (with baby vegetables and harissa) are great options for those seeking meat-free dining. 

For dessert we ordered the Assiette de Fromage (with apples, grapes and nuts) for $12, and Espresso with Pistacio Ice Cream $4.  Both are outstanding, and I highly recommend either.  Other desserts include Profiteroles and Vanilla Crème Brulee, and  Iles Flottantes, literally ‘Floating Islands,’ an offering of creamy custard topped with poached meringue—the perfect way to end a meal.

Casimir’s eclectic collection of French red, white and rose wines, as well as champagne, beer, and spirits including Pastis, Cognacs, Single-Malt Scotch and Grappa, serve as great accompaniments to any meal.  The restaurant also features a creative cocktail list including Le Zebulon (rum, ginger, lime, nutmeg), Le Casablanca (Malibu, OJ, 7UP) and Le Pollux (Stoli Vanilla, Cointreau, Pineapple) and the new Hippolyte (gin, Cointreau, ginger, lime)

Casimir also serves lunch daily, and a weekend brunch.  The $9.95 Brunch Special features entrees such as Brioche French Toast (served with fresh fruit, syrup and sweetened cream), Croque Monsieur or Madame (served with mixed greens) and Tunisian Eggs (3 eggs baked in terra cotta with spicy tomato and feta).  Their a la carte brunch menu features favorites from their dinner menu suitable for afternoon eating, such as Black Boudin Sausage (with apples and mashed potatoes), Hamburger New Orleans (with tartar sauce and bacon) and the popular La Velodrome salad with arugula, parmesan and roasted garlic croutons.

Casimir is open for dinner from 5:30 pm to 12:00 am Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30 pm to 1:00 am Friday and Saturday.  Weekend brunch runs from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  American Express and cash are accepted.  For more information, visit www.casimirrestaurant.com and become a fan on Facebook.

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Paris!  City of lights!  A destination for romantics, history buffs, and those who crave art, French culture, and of course food & wine. 

The French are a proud people – they love their bread & cheese.  And for good reason.  The bread is some of the freshest in the world.  For 85 Euro cents or less you can buy a fresh baguette at any time of day.  Most restaurants in France are French.  There are sprinkles of Italian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Greek, and American fast food, but for the most part you will see the stylish Parisians lounging at a cafe – reading the paper, sipping a cafe au lait, munching on a croque monsieur, baguette, salad, or steak.  In the afternoons they crowd the cafes, bistros, and bar tabacs sipping cold beers, casually smoking (cigarettes), and just enjoying some people watching. 

During a recent 10 day visit to this grand, old city my wife & I did our best to mix up eating at fancier restaurants, enjoying Parisian street food, getting in on the people watching, and even cooking for ourselves.  We dined at Chez Denise – a spot recommended by Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations, and Le Gavroche – a local spot that does not normally cater to tourists; in other words if you choose to go, you should know what you’re ordering.  We shopped at the local G20 Supermarket as well as smaller local shops like Boucherie Provins

My favorite part of the French cuisine, more than anything else was the freshness of the ingredients.  In France they don’t use preservatives or hormones, and rather than shopping at Costo or Wal-Mart for canned goods in bulk, the Parisians opt for picking up what they need for dinner on a daily basis ensuring their families will eat healthy, fresh food every day.  Certainly something I could get used to…

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Robin Des Bois Sherwood Cafe
195 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 596-1609
www.sherwoodcafe.com

I’ve been eating in this neighborhood for a number of years now. (approximately 9) Many places come and go, but there are a few that hold their integrity, their quality of food and ambiance, service, and menu. One of these places is Robin Des Bois Sherwood Cafe. During my earliest years in the hood I called it Sherwood, my wife calls it Robin Des Bois…whatever, it’s all the same.

RDBSC is situated on Smith between Warren & Baltic in what I believe was once a shoe or furniture store. The store expanded to the left into what is now New York Perks. You are greeted at the door by a little Michelin Man holding the menu, and windows full of random kitch.

Once inside you’re transported to another time and place – think 1960’s Paris? I don’t know. Wasn’t born until ’77, and prior to last April I’d never been to France. The decor would have you believe it though. It’s part Catholic (large Virgin Mary statue), part cinema (old French movie posters featuring buxom babes), with a mix of plenty of random antique shop / second hand trinkets.

Arrive early enough, and you’ll be seated right away. Your seating choices are inside at one of the many random tables with a mix of wood and plastic chairs, or in the center at their large communal table. You may also eat in their garden space which also features a sitting area for those who choose to only drink. If you’re a late eater you may wait at the bar, and enjoy a beer, a glass of wine from their impeccable selection, or a specialty cocktail. I usually keep it fairly simple with a massive glass of Cotes Du Rhone.

For your meal you may select from a handful of specials, small plates, sandwiches, or large entrees. I can’t stress this enough – if they have mushroom risotto on special, GET IT! You will not regret it. Other favorites are the whole or half roasted chicken with garlic mash and green beans. The chicken is crispy and succulent. There’s also the grilled skirt steak au poivre that comes with potatoes au gratin. Nine times out of ten, this is what I will order. They also make a killer pork chop, lamb merguez sandwich, and croque monsieur.

I’ve taken dates here, friends – my old roommate and I once ate at a table set up in the front window. The wife and I go often, and we even took her parents once who also enjoyed the food and atmosphere.

Another high point for RDBSC is the service. Most, if not all the wait staff is French. But unlike their continental counterparts, there isn’t the slightest hint of rudeness or entitlement about them. I guess you could sum up Robin Des Bois Sherwood Cafe as the total experience.

~Sam

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