Between the revamped Café Boulud and Doug Penfold’s new Yorkville bistro, Francophiles are having a very good year. I’m a diehard fan of Cava, Penfold’s midtown Spanish restaurant, and the news that he was taking over the location occupied since the ’70s by Le Trou Normand felt fated. Like Cava, the new spot is accessed via an alley and barely visible from the street: even an innocent lunch date acquires a whiff of discreet rendezvous. It’s one of the most intimate restaurants in the city—only 20 seats, plus 36 more on a cobblestone patio. When Penfold opened this winter, he was immediately descended upon by food industry insiders (I spotted Michael Bonacini, among others) and youth-enhanced Yorkvillers. There’s much toasting and petits bisous under the crystal chandeliers. In those first weeks they hadn’t yet secured a liquor licence, which they got around with special occasion licences and comp flutes of champagne. Did I mention it’s tiny? Penfold works at a couple of burners behind the bar, thriving under the constraints. He composes note-perfect pork liver mousse (to smear on toasts and top with pickled turnip), chestnut soup (fragrant with sorrel, the nuts’ sweetness undercut by tart sheep’s milk crème fraîche), tartine (with trout cured by John Bil of Honest Weight, see No. 19), and steaming side plates of gratin (one night, a surprisingly light version with celeriac and escarole). My last visit ended with a made-to-order apple tart, with warm calvados sabayon slowly poured overtop. When it comes to desserts like this, we’re all Francophiles. BEST BITE: A ballotine of chicken wrapped around roasted apples, with a jolt of herbaceousness from a watercress purée.
90 Yorkville Ave., 416-428-6641, chabrolrestaurant.com