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Excuse My French NYC

Saturday night was almost too cold to venture downtown, but I had reservations at Excuse My French at 96 Orchard Street in New York City. I was looking forward to this well-reviewed Parisian-inspired bistro that offered small plates and specialty cocktails, and even the 14 degree weather couldn't deter me.

The layout of the restaurant had confused me when I was making my reservations on Resy, but based on some photos from Google Maps, I thought reserving seats at the bar would be my best bet for a most atmospheric good time. Little did I know, the bar is basically the entire restaurant! Entering Excuse My French feels a little like entering a restaurant only the locals know about-- if the locals were mostly 20-somethings who created indie art films backed by family money. I was more than happy to slip in and feel part of the cool kid crowd for the evening.

It is a tight space. I don't consider this a criticism, just a fact. If you do decide to check it out, reservations are a must. I also wouldn't bring a big party here (more than four or five.) Someone behind us was brave enough to have a birthday party of sorts for more than ten people, but it was a very tight squeeze.

I got the sense that again, wandering in here sans reservation would be a bit of a stressful experience. The restaurant looks like a bar, but the host was tightly regulating anyone who walked through the door. I didn't sense this was a "wander in off the street and have a drink" kind of place, though I could be wrong. It was pretty crowded and busy when we were there, despite the cold, so maybe the vibe is different on different nights.

The smallness of the space actually contributes a lot to the buzz and energy of the atmosphere. It felt very chic, very vibrant, and might I say... European? The design of the space is also quite good, evoking a 20's speakeasy charm, with framed art prints on the wall including that of Klimt.

Onto the important stuff: food, service, and atmosphere. Check, check, and check. All supremely excellent. My dining companion got an excellent-looking cocktail, and we ordered wine for the "table." The bartender, who was very busy both waiting the bar and mixing up drinks, was very attentive despite all his duties, and even apologized when our mains came out a little too quickly on the heels of our cheese appetizer. (We didn't mind at all.)

We started with the burrata which was interestingly prepared, with what tasted like pickled cauliflower topped with seeds and sprouts. The hot dishes really stole the show, however. The Cajun Chicken was simple but impeccably flavored, and came out looking and tasting like something homemade from your French grandmother's kitchen.

We also had the Duck Confit Parmentier, which was something like a duck liver soufflé. It was light, fluffy, and incredibly tasty-- I could have eaten two and still had room for more. We ended the meal with a Nutella crepe, which came out fresh, hot, buttery, and a perfect sweet ending to a deliciously well-crafted meal.

I suspect some will balk at the size of the plates in comparison to the prices. The portions are small-- it is tapas-style, after all. Maybe it is a bit pricey. However, this is very masterful cooking, and the dishes are deceptively small. We were very full and more than satisfied after our three small dishes. Sometimes a small, well-cooked meal can be much more satisfying than an enormous portion of food that's of lesser quality.

Get cozy in this cool French speakeasy-style bistro with reservations on Resy, or check out the Excuse My French website at



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