The Wythe Hotel is getting a new lobby restaurant tomorrow called Le Crocodile—opening Wednesday, December 4th. The new French concept comes from the team behind Chez Ma Tante, the nearby Greenpoint restaurant known in equal measure for its fluffy pancakes and Montreal-inspired menu. Chefs Jake Leiber and Aidan O'Neal of Chez Ma Tante are working with restaurateur Jon Neidich of Golden Age Hospitality (Acme, The Happiest Hour), to create a distinct brasserie feel that fuels an ongoing interest in their French-inflected cooking.
Hors d'oeuvres will include oeufs mayonnaise chaud with trout roe, dressed lobster tail and duck rillettes. In addition, you can expect brunch-ready dishes such as a omelette with chanterelles and some pomme frites inspired by the versions at Balthazar. And yes, there will be the requisite escargot dish, but also unusual brasserie plates such as cacio e pepe orzo as well as a chicken ode to the version served at Jonathan Waxman's now-defunct, Barbuto. For dessert, there will be classic French desserts such as profiteroles with chocolate sauce, crème brûlée and chocolate pots de crème. Drinks are designed by Jim Kearns of The Happiest Hour and its downstairs speakeasy, Slowly Shirley, featuring martinis, gin & tonics and an “Old World” wine list.
If you’ve been to the hip Williamsburg hotel, you may remember it for its former restaurant, Reynard, once a part of Andrew Tarlow’s hospitality group, in a kitchen formerly run by beloved chef, Christina Leicki, known for its wood-fire cooking. The Wythe is also home to the rooftop bar, Lemon's which opened earlier this year.
As for the design—orchestrated by Neidich in collaboration LOVEISENOUGH design studio—certain details, such as flooring and ceiling lights, remain from the hotel’s original restaurant space. But rounded lightwood banquettes outfitted with sleek burgundy leather and new marble bar give the space a more 2019 feel (the total seat count is 100). The restaurant’s logo (by Aduo design), a mischievous-looking crocodile mascot, to us, is reminiscent of the acclaimed children’s book Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.
It’s an auspicious time to open a restaurant attempting to be quintessentially French. It used to be that the barometer for a restaurant’s excellence was established by cooking stalwart European dishes, but in the past decade, restaurateurs have looked away from these cuisines, often seeing them as too fussy.
While today’s restaurant scene thankfully offers much more diversity and nuance to dining out, Le Crocodile does seem to represent a resurgence of nostalgic flavors of the old guard without trying to fully recreate it (and its mistakes). Nick Anderer—who cooked at Maialino and Marta—opened his first solo project last month with Anton’s, serving mushroom velouté and porgy and prawns à la Manhattan. Nearby, Babs similarly focuses on updating European classics with a modern perspective from a younger chef, Efrén Hernández. Even New York hitmaker Greg Baxtrom looked back when creating Maison Yaki, his 2019 restaurant that features French food served yakitori-style. Not to mention, the critics’ pick, Frenchette is set to reopen the legacy French restaurant, Le Veau d’Or, on the Upper East Side in 2020. It's no coincidence that the team consulted with current Frenchette chef de cuisine Jeff Teller.
Le Crocodile at the Wythe Hotel will begin with dinner service and eventually open for all-day meals. The restaurant will compete with those at the numerous other Williamsburg hotels cropping up just a few blocks away, such as at the Hoxton Hotel.
Le Crocodile is located inside the Wythe Hotel at 80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249.