The answer to the question of what you should order at Le Crocodile, a new French restaurant in Williamsburg, is hiding in plain sight. On the postcard that comes with your check and on the books of matches and toothpicks by the host stand, a series of charmingly naïf illustrations depict a chicken, standing alone or disappearing into the toothy, gaping jaw of a somewhat gleeful-looking reptile. At Le Crocodile, you are the crocodile—get ready to toss le poulet lustily down your gullet. Half of a roasted one comes dripping with jus and sprinkled with chopped parsley, its crisp skin the same shade of golden as the bistro-style French fries piled high beside it.
It’s a thrillingly enormous portion of food, befitting this thrillingly enormous sort of restaurant, which took the place of Andrew Tarlow’s Reynard at the Wythe Hotel. The poulet frites is not instead of steak frites, it’s in addition to it—and Le Crocodile’s steak frites is not just plain old steak frites, it’s steak frites au poivre, meaning that the meat is encrusted in cracked peppercorn and finished with a velvety spoonful of pan sauce. The menu offers four varieties of pâté, plus a duck-and-rabbit rillette. There are leeks vinaigrette and leek gratin, pot-au-feu and2020欧洲杯体育投注网 cassoulet. There are six varieties of gin-and-tonic, and no fewer than twelve desserts: profiteroles and madeleines, flourless chocolate cake and chocolate pot de crème, tarte au citron and tarte tatin.
The chefs, Aidan O’Neal and Jake Leiber, mastered the art of the neighborhood restaurant with Chez Ma Tante, the French-ish place they opened in Greenpoint in 2017. At the Wythe, their ambition is bolder—Williamsburg has become an extension of Manhattan, the hotel’s swanky vibe would have you believe, and they can make it here, too. Le Crocodile is Brooklyn’s answer to Balthazar; with just a few smart design tweaks (higher wainscoting, built-in booths, velvet chairs), the dining room has been transformed from rustic wedding venue to glamorous brasserie.
As at Balthazar, the menu’s breadth of fine-tuned favorites gives it an edge over French restaurants with smaller menus that tend toward the novel or the esoteric. At Bar Bête, which opened in December, in Carroll Gardens, a mid-course omelette filled with peekytoe crabmeat, topped with togarashi, and served with seaweed butter overpromised and underdelivered; at Le Crocodile, a much simpler, technically perfect omelette, served with greens and lightly pickled chanterelles, held its own among the murderers’ row of plats principaux.
This is not to say that Le Crocodile resists risk or trends entirely. One of the four pâtés is meatless, made with shiitake, maitake, and cremini mushrooms and achieves a remarkably convincing I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-liver texture. A pork chop is served with kale, anchovies, and a slice of burrata (which was described by a server as “a palate cleanser”); a gloriously fatty duck breast is strewn with sticky-sweet kumquats. You’ll find cacio-e-pepe orzo, and a crab salad with the spicy Japanese condiment yuzu kosho.
But what’s most exciting about Le Crocodile is that its young and energetic chefs seem focussed mainly on perfecting—and occasionally gently revising—an encyclopedia of classics. A plate of de-shelled escargot and thinly sliced fennel in a broth fragrant with Pernod was powerfully transportive. A French 75 made with Cognac left me wondering what I had against the stuff—it had seemed suited only for a snifter in a smoke-filled library or, worse, a trashy night club, but suddenly struck me as elegant and refreshing.
One evening, two women at the next table enjoyed separate orders of the roast chicken. At a moment in restaurant culture when “everything is meant to be shared” is practically a mandate, this seemed like a radical, liberating move, and one that a menu like this encourages. Even with a large party, you couldn’t possibly try everything in one visit, so you might as well order just exactly what you feel like. Share in pleasure, if not plates, then come back for more. (Dishes $9-$91.) ♦