The new restaurant from the trio behind Michelin-starred Oxalis was supposed to open in 2020. And it sort of did, as a pop-up in Oxalis’ courtyard that summer, and on March 31 this year, Place des Fêtes opened in a home of its own about a mile away on a pretty stretch of Greene Avenue in Brooklyn.
The space, slightly sunken from street level, is handsomely rustic with the requisite exposed brick, lots of wood from the beamed ceiling to the floor and a stylized patina of wear. Though joined, the 65-seat space feels like two dining rooms, bright and brunchie around the bar up front and a little more evening leaning in the back, with a semi-open kitchen in between. It's attractive and familiar.
Place des Fêtes’ menu is divided into cold, salted and vegetable sections, along with three mains. The first section’s winter flounder ($17) is lovely: chunks of mild white fish enlivened by a spritely golden tomato gelée. It’s a nice, light snack or starter, a culinary interpretation of spring. The second column’s Don Bocarte anchovies ($15) are also excellent, doing what great anchovies do best: imparting waves of dynamic sea salt flavor, inimitable, firm but buttery texture and an overall tasting experience that far exceeds their diminutive size. These are among the finest of tinned fish varieties, and that they’re served rather than prepared here is a testament to the restaurant's sourcing, if not its execution. They’re also the latest in a recent micro-trend of marvelous anchovies portending what turns out to be an otherwise fine-approaching-good restaurant.
Another increasingly frequent occurrence is a collection of menu items up top that would have left a much better impression of the overall restaurant in a vacuum—the flounder and the anchovies, Place des Fêtes’s primary examples, each served in gleaming, shallow pools of olive oil that invite bread. For $8, it’s a few thick, dark slices from a well-regarded area bakery. The offsite context adds nothing and it could be swapped with almost anything without gathering notice. But it is a conversation starter about menu creation—how one might author a bill of fare that takes what’s sometimes considered a tertiary item and render it functionally necessary but not substantively so.
With a little subjectivity and the myriad dimensions of perspective, Place des Fêtes is a pleasant place to visit. It fulfills its purpose as a wine bar with those outstanding small plates and another petite option, “crispy” maitake mushrooms ($15) that could simply be called fried. They all soar above expected drinking snacks and each would be delightful with pours or bottles from the largely French and Spanish wine list. But it’s still, and likely will be for a bit, too popular to serve as a casual neighborhood pop-in spot.
The standout entrée at the moment, a tidy portion of fried halibut with a little pot of gribiche and a perky tangle of endive ($35), is as good as any good fried fish you’ll find, but it might not quite live up to the long waits, planning and last minute notification-hoping required to book a primetime table, either. And larger land plates like a somewhat chewy, pungent Berkshire pork rib with scarcely perceptible dried clams ($33) fall too far outside of the restaurant's more successful seafood options. This extends to the dessert menu, which betrays the wonderful saline quality of the anchovies by upending the mineral and seemingly pumping a technically adeptly constructed and terrifically textured cream puff ($12) with an abundance of salt that cloaks its subtle notes of banana.
Place des Fêtes is promising and will probably shine on those rare lucky evenings that turn nicer than expected absent any effort; and when interest fades a bit and it’s a little easier to make reservations as a precaution, not a requirement.
The Vibe: Rusticly chic and roomy between a bright dining room up front and a somewhat sleeker space in the back.
The Food: Seafood forward mostly small plates like the exceptional winter flounder with tomato gelée and Don Bocarte anchovies.
The Drinks: A largely French and Spanish wine list, plus cocktails, beer and cider.
Time Out Tip: Expect reservation availability outside of primetime. Walk-in space is theoretically available.
Place des Fêtes is located at 212 Greene Avenue. It is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5:30pm-10pm; Saturday and Sunday from 4:30pm-10:30pm.