WALLFLOWER: French Country Cuisine & Imaginative Cocktails Partner in Cozy West Village Hideaway.
By Lori Simmons Zelenko
Photos by Christopher Soto-Chimelis
This Wallflower – the intimate jewel box of a restaurant tucked away on a side street in the heart of the West Village – is no lonely hearts. Rather the restaurant and charming bar run by Xavier Herit, Co-Owner and Head Bartender, is looking at a full dance card as the New Year sets in. Priding itself on its friendly, welcoming atmosphere it is a sophisticate’s answer to everyone’s favorite corner bar – a petite space (28 seats) that leaves bling behind. And yes, everybody here knows your name.
No unlisted numbers bar entry to Wallflower, says Xavier, who takes great pride in making sure that every guest can just be themselves. Of course, the French influence is felt and oh my! Very much appreciated. Chef Michael Gutowski works wonders in a shoebox-sized kitchen – he is an old friend from Daniel Boulud where Xavier, as he says, “made people feel good” for seven years. The cocktails and food complement each other like waltz partners each unique in their individuality but when paired – well, absolutely fabulous!
The must-try cocktail comes in a glass milk bottle – The Dude – you could call it a Frenchified-egg nog – or a White Russian with Cognac – as rich as any dessert this creamy concoction (all 8 ounces!) is sure to tempt any wayward kitties. But for those who prefer to accent the inventive but not uber-fancy cuisine at Wallflower with a powerful libation, my favorite is Caught Inside (yes, the name is another surfer reference, a sometime “hobby” of Xavier Herit) a strong and stealthy blend of Hamilton Black Rum, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac blended with almond syrup, lemon juice and bitters. Cocktails at Wallflower are dressed-up in their finest, superbly presented without being over the top, just simply delicious to imbibe and lovely to look at.
Xavier is succeeding here at creating his own social definition of cocktails – accessible and tasty, friendly, you could say – like the restaurant itself. But cocktails are not a stand-alone art form at Wallflower, the food is fresh from the Farmer’s market and prepared beautifully without artifice. There is “snack food” that’s served in the cozy bar – bite size surprises – and dinner too is an option with seasonal delights loved by locavores (Shh! Not sharing how good the short ribs are).
Favorite “snack” at Wallflower’s bar: The Rabbit & Trumpet Royal Terrine. Why? I confess it is melt in your mouth marvelous – a natural pairing with Caught Inside – the deep darkness of the drink complements the earthy richness of the dish. On a lighter note, the Hamachi (yellowtail sashimi) with fresh grapefruit, pine nuts and horseradish aioli was a Pacific pleasure – zesty, enticing with blossoming flavors intertwined. But there is no false step at Wallflower. The cocktails, the food and let’s not overlook the wine curated by Jason Soloway, co-owner and Wine Director, together all these elements move in tempo, gracefully waltzing each and everyone into an experience that is joyful, a friendly celebration of flavors to feast upon. No wonder Wallflower’s dance card is full!
Wallflower is located at 235 West 12th Street, New York City. Reservations requested via the website www.wallflowernyc.com but walk-ins are welcome.