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Dirty French

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

180 Ludlow St., New York, NY 10002 40.721826 -73.987443
nr. Houston St.  See Map | Subway Directions Hopstop Popup
212-254-3000 Send to Phone

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  • Cuisine: American Nouveau, Bistro, French
  • Price Range: $$$

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  • Critics' Rating: **

    Key to Prices and ratings

    Upscale
    • Almost Perfect
    • Exceptional
    • Generally Excellent
    • Very Good
    • Good
    Cheap Eats
    • Best in Category
    • Excellent
    • Delicious
    • Very Good
    • Noteworthy
    • Very Expensive
    • Expensive
    • Moderate
    • Cheap
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review
Photo by Carolyn Griffin

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Official Website

dirtyfrench.com

Hours

Mon.-Sat., 5:30p.m.-11p.m.; Sun., closed

Nearby Subway Stops

F, J, M, Z at Delancey St.-Essex St.; F at Second Ave.

Prices

$23-$39

Payment Methods

American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Special Features

  • Dine at the Bar
  • Hot Spot
  • Notable Chef
  • Private Dining/Party Space
  • Online Reservation

Alcohol

  • Full Bar

Reservations

Recommended

Profile

As the name indicates, the focus at this uneven, generally pleasurable restaurant is on the ancient canon of French cuisine, although the “Dirty” influences appear to come from all over the map. The enticing, beautifully scripted menu is divided into the usual timeless categories (“Hors d’Oeuvres,” “Salade,” “Poisson,” etc.), but look closely and you’ll see that the trout meunière is speckled with sesame seeds, and the house version of frisée aux lardons is garnished with a strange ingredient called “sizzling giblets.” The roasted clams are flavored with “berbere spices,” the haricots verts aren’t haricots verts at all (they’re “haricots asiatiques”), and the usual baguette-and-butter service has been replaced by fresh-baked Moroccan-style flatbreads, which are hoisted to the table with a schmear of fromage blanc scattered, like a robust gourmet version of the old supermarket classic Boursin, with herbes de Provence.

Invariably, some of these rash experiments work better than others, and many of the most successful recipes tend to come during the hors d’oeuvre portion of dinner, before the relentless heaviness of the cooking sets in. In addition to berbere spices, the crunchy-topped roast clams are garnished with almonds and gouts of brown butter, and if you order the $24 foie gras terrine, you’ll find that it’s been wrapped, ingeniously, in a warm sleeve of brioche dough and brik pastry and dusted with tiny flakes of burnt lemon powder. The excellent lamb carpaccio has a similar Moroccan kick to it (it’s pooled with ­guajillo-­chile oil on top and plated under a scrim of yogurt), the mille-feuille is inventively constructed with slivers of trumpet mushrooms and green Thai curry, and the house tuna tartare is touched with Thai chile and designed to be eaten as a satisfyingly messy finger food, with torn strips of crackly, roti-style “crêpe Indochine.”

The entrée portion of dinner at Dirty French is more muddled in quality and execution, and, as usual in this expansive empire-building stage of the Torrisi-­Carbone partnership, not cheap. The aforementioned trout meunière is a nicely cooked piece of fish, but the consensus among the somewhat scandalized Francophiles at my table was that the sesame seeds made the dish taste a little too much like some strange bastardized version of Chinese shrimp toast. The radical fusion version of steak au poivre was better received (the Wagyu short rib is pickled, pastrami style, in lemongrass and Kaffir lime), but the chicken and crêpes for two was muffled in a heavy, weirdly tasteless cream sauce, and my unwieldy slabs of duck à l’orange were curiously undercooked.

My advice to die-hard Torrisi fans would be to share one or two of these stolid dishes (the short rib; the sausage, which is served as an appetizer but works as an entrée; the black bass “en papillote,” if you’re attempting to eat light), save a few extra calories for the wines (expertly dispensed by the exotically dressed wine director, Lelañea Fulton), and jump straight into the desserts. The pastry chef, Heather Bertinetti (Convivio, Marea), has a knack for taking familiar compositions and making them new. It turns out that pineapples work pretty well in a tarte Tatin, especially when topped with a boozy scoop of rum-raisin ice cream. Her slim, dense citrus tart is the perfect antidote to an overwhelmingly rich dinner, and if you crave more richness, call for the sugary, balloon-light beignets, served with caramel sauce that is spiked, in a dirty New Orleans way, with a backwoods hint of chicory.

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