The perfect boîte can be an elusive thing.
For me, it has to have several components — a seductive yet comfortable setting, cocktails that are as delicious as they are inventive, and a menu that goes far beyond basic nuts and cheeses, filled instead with snacky dishes that actually excite.
I first heard about the restaurant after interviewing owner Jacques Doassans for a Wall Street Journal style column on how to throw a modern tea party.
The inspiration for the bistro, Mr. Doassans says, was “L’Amant” (The Lover), a Claude Berri film about an affair between a young French girl and a wealthy Chinese man set in 1929 Vietnam. Just as the film did, the restaurant combines French and Asian elements in its drinks, food and setting. (I particularly loved the fans on the back wall and beautiful Chinoiserie wallpaper.)
We had a round of cocktails to start — the Colonel ($14), combining gin, lime with house-made Thai basil syrup and Thai basil leaf, was a winner.
But my favorite was the Southern Mile ($14), a refreshingly tart and gingery mix of bourbon, ginger syrup, lime, mint, soda water and candied ginger. I could have drunk 10 of these — not that I’d be able to walk home after.
I’ve always thought dumplings to be an ideal bar snack and was thrilled to see them on the menu. These were vegetarian ($12), very nicely done and paired with soy sauce (loaded with scallions and ginger) as well as a sweet chili sauce.
Our favorite of them all, however was the chicken satay brochettes and jumbo prawn brochettes. The prawns, especially, had a delicious char that mingled nicely with the earthy saltiness of its soy sauce dip.
If L’Amant keeps this up, though, it won’t be long before we’re back.
L’Amant, 235 West 12th Street, 646.476.8731; http://www.lamantnyc.com/