One of the most exciting restaurants around right now, Recette appears at first simply to be another West Village canteen fitting the same cookie-cutter mold: small, cramped, drab interior, spare wooden tables, loud. But when the food arrives, it is a revelation. Jesse Schenker, a heavily tattooed 29-year-old, and his team are classically trained French chefs, and it shows.

The food, which is served in tapas-style small plates and typically shared, is universally excellent, as impressive for its consistency as its quality. There are dishes available that you will not find anywhere else. The salt cod fritters with lamb sausage ragu and curry aioli is shockingly good. The bizarre “smores” dessert (graham cracker ice cream, toasted marshmallows and a spicy chocolate sauce) is a unique and thoroughly successful combination. If you like charcuterie, the plate is one of the best available.

Recette is also demonstrating a surprisingly rare ability to address criticism and improve, and this cannot be underestimated. Sam Sifton noted in his March 2010 review in the New York Times that a single roasted scallop served with braised oxtail and earthy morels was “phenomenally good”, but consumable in two bites. The restaurant now offers three phenomenally good scallops with morels in an outstanding caviar buerre blanc, perfect for sharing.

The wine list — in both depth and selection — is not remotely in the same league as the cuisine, but perhaps is appropriate for the casual setting and relatively modest prices. All the same, it would be nice to see it filled out a bit, particularly in the surprisingly lean selection of French wines. The service is friendly and largely adequate, although we have had the experience of ordering a glass of red wine to go with our final two meat courses and having it arrive after both courses had already been consumed. If you’re looking for a casual Village restaurant that punches far above its weight in quality of food, there is no better choice than Recette.


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West Village
328 W. 12th St.
New York (nr. Greenwich St.)
(212) 414-3000
Mon-Sat, 5:30pm-midnight; Sun, 10am-3pm, 5:30pm-midnight
    Jesse Schenker, Chef