Recently I had a really delicious dinner at a new French restaurant in the East Village called Papilles. They kindly invited myself and a guest in to try their new fall menu, and we had a lovely tasting! I think this is such a great, cozy spot and I really loved the food.
Papilles was started by three friends – Nicolas, a mixologist and restaurateur, Elena, who did the decorating and handled the aesthetic aspect, and her husband, Chef Calstier. Chef Calstier is a classically trained French chef who is infusing a modern sensibility into the food he crafts at Papilles. For me, this was French food unlike any I was expecting, especially after just having been in Paris a few weeks ago. It actually reminded me a bit of ABC Kitchen (my favorite restaurant in NYC), in that everything was fresh and seasonal, and the dishes felt inventive and new, but were still things that you really want to eat.
The drinks that Nicolas mixed up for us were really standouts. Nicolas grew up in Lyon and uses fresh ingredients to craft cocktails that complement the restaurant’s seasonal menu. I typically don’t like cocktails and never really order them (I usually find them either too strong or sickly sweet), but I loved the frothy pink concoction on the left, a mixture of aperitif wine, plum liqueur, lime, rosemary tincture, and pineapple. It was light and fruity, a touch sweet, and the flavors just melded together beautifully. On the left is the Sang Chaud, a spicy, smoky mixture of fermented tequila with smoked chili bitters and a pinot noir float.
We started with an appetizer from the new fall menu – snails served with parsley gnocchi, black garlic sauce, and ginger crumbs. It was deliciously rich but not heavy, and so flavorful.
Next we had the beets with huckleberry coulis, hazelnuts, and an autumn vinaigrette. This was also seriously delicious – a lot of different textures, very flavorful, and those vibrant colors! I mean, pink is my favorite color so of course I was delighted the minute the plate landed on the table, but the taste definitely lived up to the presentation! I’ve never had a dish like this and I loved that it was vegetable-based.
For the main we had the roasted veal with kabocha squash and maitake mushrooms – again, so, so yummy. I’m a huge fan of squash (especially in autumn), and the flavors here just melded together in such a delightful way. Also I’m sorry I’m not a food writer – I wish I could describe these things better but all I can say really is they were very, very yummy!
For dessert (my favorite part of any meal), we had Litchi with a star anise cream and elderflower biscuit. This was light and full of different textures, from the silky smooth cream to the light and airy Litchi foam to the soft elderflower biscuit underneath.
You can both see and taste the care and creativity that goes into crafting these dishes and drinks – oh, also did I mention that Chef Calstier is only 24 and he’s already worked in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in addition to now being at the helm of Papilles? Just slightly impressive!
I think Papilles would make for a great date spot or night out with a friend, and you’ll leave feeling satisfied but not like you ate a giant, heavy meal. They use seasonal, locally sourced, non-GMO ingredients, and their meat is grass-fed and humanely raised – in my opinion you can really taste the difference that comes from quality ingredients and a thoughtful presentation. The East Village is full of great restaurants but I think if you’re looking for an upscale, but still comfortable and laidback spot for unique, fresh, and seasonal French food, Papilles should be high on your list!
127 East 7th Street