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“It’s fine.” Two words that will become your oft repeated mantra the longer your meal lasts at La Gamelle, a lovely if blasé retro brasserie from Motorino pizza mogul Mathieu Palombino, in the space that previously held the restaurant’s pop-up prelude, Chez Jef, and, before that, Bowery Diner.
No ghosts of the old diner haunt the space—Formica counters have been replaced with an imported vintage bar, schoolhouse chairs swapped for dark-wood two-tops—but there is some restaurant déjà vu going on. Maybe it’s due to the restaurant’s name (it’s christened after a long-shuttered Grand Street bistro) or its design (that bistro’s owner-chef Alex Gherab had a hand in
its Paris nostalgia).
It doesn’t help matters that Palombino’s menu is so play-by-the-numbers Gallic, loaded with exactly the sort of butter-shot foodstuff you’d find at any garden-variety French concept. Asparagus “mousseline” ($9) coats adequately tender stalks with a stock eggy hollandaise and little more. Steak tartare ($12), though generously portioned, arrives a touch formless and soft, and short on much-needed crusty baguette accompaniments.
The menu’s charcuterie section hits many familiar, and favorable, beats, appointed with snappy gherkins, good butter and more bread-basket refills than an Olive Garden: salty ribbons of country ham and petit jesus salami, porky cervelat rings, and creamy rabbit pâté en croûte paved with chewy prunes and crunchy pistachios ($12). You could easily make a whole meal there—a half-portion charcuterie platter sets you back $34, a few dollars above a number of the entrées—and you should.
That’s because main courses leave you stuck with jus-parched duck confit ($24) with smashed potatoes that betray not a dash of the spring garlic promised on the menu, and wine-splashed moules frites with oversalted fries and underseasoned bivalves ($24).
The cooking at La Gamelle is as tired as you’ll be after a bread-loaded meal here. No effort is made to live up to the legend of such dishes, let alone rewrite them. And that is, simply, not fine.
|Cross street:||between Rivington and Stanton Sts|
|Transport:||Subway: J, Z to Bowery|
|Price:||Average main course: $24. AmEx, MC, V.|
|Opening hours:||Daily 5pm–midnight|
|Do you own this business?|