Monday, July 19, 2010

Casimir – A Quaint, French East Village Oasis

Casimir - 103 Avenue B, New York NY 10009
L Train to 1st Avenue or 6 Train to Astor Place

A few weeks ago, I had the fun of attending a tasting at Casimir, a French restaurant in the East Village. I love going to this part of Manhattan because it always surprises me – so many different cuisines in one neighborhood, and there’s always something new and exciting to explore. My friend Crystal joined me too and we made a nice evening out of it (and even avoided a bad rainstorm that conveniently hit during dinner).


Tucked away in Alphabet city on Avenue B, Casimir is a bit of a trek to get to, but once you get there it’s worth it. I like the casual bistro vibe that’s fit for small and large groups alike. The front is more social, as the tables have access to the street scene through large open windows. You can sit there with a friend for a casual dinner or bring a book and enjoy an evening solo.

The back of the restaurant is pretty expansive with a mix of small wooden tables and chairs and even some corner bench seating. We were pretty tempted by the quaint outdoor garden, also in the back, but with the imminent rainstorm, we opted for one of the corner benches. It was comfortable and private enough to have a conversation without anyone eavesdropping. I liked that the tables were well spaced out and not packed together as can be the case in some small bistros.


The cuisine is of course French with all your favorite classics such as escargot, steak frites, steamed mussels and such. They have a nice mix of seafood, meat and even some vegetarian-friendly dishes. This was especially great because Crystal is a veggie and I was glad that she had options to choose from.

– This is one of my favorite treats to get in a French restaurant and it’s also a good indication of what the rest of the meal will look like. Hey…if you can’t get your escargot right, how are you going to score high on mussels, steak frites and other French classics? Anyway…the escargot was lovely – buttery, garlicky with little pieces of sautéed shallots. I was sad that Crystal couldn’t try it and I felt guilty finishing all that buttery goodness on my own, so half of it went back. Shame.

Almond-Melon Gazpacho
– We were very excited about this appetizer because it sounded really refreshing, especially on a hot summer night. Not only was it cooling, it was so tasty – with hints of sweetness from the fruit (it had juicy grape halves on top) and a slightly nutty aftertaste. I loved the creamy consistency, which didn’t leave you feeling heavy.

Dubarry Salad
– Another one of our starters, it was also light and refreshing. Combining several types of greens such as arugula and radicchio, the salad had a peppery taste, which was nicely balanced out by the sweetness of the beets, green beans and the asparagus.

Apricot Chicken with Cous-Cous
– I ordered this dish because it incorporated my favorite flavor combination of sweet and savory. I loved the way the chicken was roasted – it had a beautiful crust on top that was slightly crunchy. The meat was milky white and tender with definite hints of apricot, which were nestled right next to it. Oh and what gorgeous apricots they were – so plump and sweet, almost like candy. Their sweet flavors were balanced out by a couple of braised green olives that gave the dish some bitterness and tang. And the cous-cous, which was both on the side and on the bottom of the chicken, was deeply flavored by it, soaking up all those apricot juices.

Mushroom & Asparagus Penne
– Crystal ordered this veggie friendly dish, which she seemed to enjoy. I didn’t try it, but just like all the other things we had that night, it was an amalgamation of harmonious flavors and good quality ingredients. The mushrooms gave this dish some meatiness that made it substantial for a dinner entrée.

Dessert – We went with two classically French desserts, the profiteroles and an apple tarte tatin. While the former looked absolutely incredible, with beautifully shaped puffs and vanilla ice cream bursting out the middle, it wasn’t the best profiterole I’ve had. The actual puff was a bit dry and tasteless, but in all fairness the ice cream and the dark chocolate sauce on top were spectacular—so creamy and rich. I picked around the puff and just ate the ice cream and the chocolate. Crystal did the same.

The apple tarte tatin on the other hand was delicious—consisting of tender, sweet apple wedges with a hint of cinnamon. I loved the buttery crust, which soaked up all that apple goodness and it even came with a side of that rich, creamy vanilla ice cream that was on the profiterole. This dessert was a true home run.

Service and Cost:

We had several servers throughout our meal, which we found inconsistent , but they were all nice and we felt that we didn’t wait too long for anything. One area where we saw room for improvement was the time in which dishes were cleared – it took slightly long sometimes but not overly so where we got annoyed.

Overall, Casimir employs an atmosphere where you aren’t rushed out to leave and are free to relax, that’s why the laid-back service, I think.

Costs are inexpensive to moderate, providing a good option for a quality meal that won’t make a dent in the wallet.

Salads & Appetizers: $9
Entrees: $12-$25
Desserts: $7

2.5 Mmmms

1 comment:

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