Jules eats world.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Le vrai francais? Close enough

I've had a couple of disappointing eating experiences in the area TimeOut has goofily dubbed "BelDel" -- below Delancey. I just like to call it "my neighborhood." As I've discussed before, restaurants here have proliferated like ticks on a hound dog, as Dan Rather might say. And the odds would say that not every newcomer will be up to snuff. More on the laggards later: first, let's talk French bistro.

Casanis looks like many of the other faux-francais places around town: black-and-white tile floors, unmarked wine bottles lining the walls, mirrors. It feels convivial, except it's usually half-full at best. That's a shame, since the food is solid. This isn't a destination restaurant, but it's just what I like in "my neighborhood" and you probably like in yours: a reliable, not ridiculously expensive, cozy spot.

I've visited Casanis a few times, most recently on a Saturday night around 7:30 p.m. My friend the acupuncturist and I wanted a low-key place. We both commented appreciatively on the music selection, the sort of lounge-y soundtrack you hear on Buddha Bar compilations. The waiter was familiar from a previous visit -- a young, shy Frenchman who smiled when I ordered in his native language (he wasn't laughing at my pronounciation, I hope). He promptly brought us serviceable bread and the glasses of wine we'd ordered: a pinot grigio and a nice, fruity malbec.

We weren't terribly hungry, so only ordered main courses: the risotto with wild mushrooms and scallops for her, and the special for me, which requires a bit of explanation. It obviously was something concocted by the kitchen with the ingredients on hand, and though on paper it sounds odd, it turned out well. On the plate were head-on shrimp, mussels and scallops, artfully arranged spoke-style, with creamed leeks, sauteed bok choy, and crispy bits of potatoes. Ex-shells, I cleaned the plate. My friend's risotto was as it should be: the sauce rich and creamy, the rice retaining some firmness.

In true French style, we lingered over our glasses of wine until we asked for the check. Surprised that we skipped a decadent French dessert? My restaurant knowledge in the area is sorely lacking in the dessert department for one reason alone: Babycakes. It's a vegan bakery (yes, you read right) on the same block as Casanis, that serves low- or no-sugar cupcakes, mini-brownies and other treats, along with my favorite -- the delicious chocolate-chip banana cake. Oh la la indeed.

81 Ludlow St.
At Broome St.

248 Broome St.
Between Ludlow and Orchard


Blogger beeone said...

As Jules' companion at Casanis I must give her and the restaurant much praise. Her description of our evening is both insightful and poetic. Casanis is true to the French Brasserie style that has become so popular in NYC comme Pastis.
My risotto was both creamy and buttery and done just this side of al dente. The scallops were nicely pan seared with just the right amount of carmelization. I throughly enjoyed Jules' dish as well. The head on shrimp were a nice surprise and the creamed leeks are my new fav (Smith and Wolensky creamed spinach moved over now there is something creamier).
I'm content to keep this LES bistro my secret so I will be assured that next time I will have no wait to sample their steak frites or moules.

3:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a story out that this owner of Casanis, (hard to spell, does that hurt biz?) owned a former Casanis and wanted again to have a hang out. Thank god if it's not a destination as who can eat at a Schillers on most any night? (crowded and loud) Le Effant is nearby, what do you think of it in comparison? My feeling on any successful biz in this hood is that it HAS TO get outside of the hood biz to make it. I have yet to go to this place, perhaps one day!

4:25 PM

Blogger Adam said...

Wow. I hope, as you imply, that it has improved since i went. Having lived around the corner and watched it open (and thought, could it have possibly picked a more generic franco-starbucks decor?), I tried it out last summer and found it a tragic parody of a French bistro food. Can't remember exactly wha we ate, but a duck breast lacked any flavor or crispiness, and a red snapper was downright revolting with a wierd gingery orange accompaniment that would have earned you an F at cooking school. Worst of all, profiteroles were drenched in Hershey's syrup. This meal was as bad as it gets, IMO.

However, I agree with you about Babycakes, totally addictive, even for butter-flour lovers. Would pick it over Sugar-Sweet-Sunshine especially as it doesn't fill me up so much. And make sure to try Jin next door for incredible sushi and sashimi. They just opened and serve great raw fish (white tuna, uni, great spicy tuna roll...) in a beautiful space. Cooked food was less impressive. Still BYO.

9:47 PM

Blogger jules said...

adam, thanks for the Jin tip -- we've been meaning to try it and it's on the agenda for tonight!

As for Casanis, I don't think it'll win any awards, but I did find it good. Maybe I was too forgiving? Or maybe you should give it another shot.

6:50 PM


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