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Plein Sud, with a Southern French brasserie menu, opened last month in the Smythe Hotel. Frederick Lesort (formerly of the undistinguished Frederick's Madison mini-chain) runs the place. Ed Cotton (formerly executive chef at Veritas and BLT Market, and sous-chef at various Boulud places before that) runs the kitchen.

 

This is a take-no-risks menu, so the only reason to visit is if you like classic French food, and think this version of it is executed well. I had a duck and foie gras terrine that stands up to the better examples of the genre at Bar Boulud or Benoit. The young lady seated next to me at the bar offered me a taste of her Loup de Mer, which I thought was on the level of Cotton's cooking at Veritas.

 

Cotton was fired at Veritas, basically because he was serving two-star food in a three-star restaurant. Plein Sud doesn't expect three stars (and won't get them), but with eight-dollar terrines and entrées in the twenties, the ambition here is a lot lower. Keith McNally could serve the identical menu, and people would line up for blocks.

 

Some people call classic French food boring, but when you get it right it can be very successful. A few blocks north, Cercle Rouge is routinely crowded. David Bouley's Secession would have been, if it hadn't been so ineptly executed. Chambers Street is at Tribeca's southern fringe, so Plein Sud may have to work harder to pull in the crowds. Cotton is a cheftestant on the new season of Top Chef that debuts next week. Offhand, I cannot remember a chef on that show with a resume like Cotton's. If he makes it deep into the season, it'll be a real coup for Plein Sud.

 

Bar service was a bit inattentive, but they only got their liquor license yesterday, so it's hardly fair to judge them yet. Blog post here.

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Thanks for that. Your point about the key being in the execution is well taken. I've put this place on my list.

 

I did enjoy this line from your blog post -

Where the alcohol is free, New York Journal is on the case, so I dropped in.
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I walk past it frequently (just did this morning, in fact),* and the posed menu doesn't charm -- "take-no-risks" seems apt.

 

OTOH, with Perle gone, and Les Halles unbearable, it might be worth trying for my French fix. Lord knows it's closer.

 

Thanks for taking one for the team. :)

 

And at the risk of thread drift: does anyone know anything about 'beca? Whenever I pass, the tables are set but no one is there; looks like it might only be used as a breakfast room??

 

 

*ETA: apparently oligarchs stay at the hotel. There was a town car waiting outside with a sign for its passenger, Luke Oil.

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Better than being TOO FAST.

I had a reservation a week or so ago, and cancelled when I learned there was still no wine list. There is something absurd about serving French food without wine. I still intend to go for a full meal, but when I heard about the free wine, I figured I'd drop in.

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