New York City has no shortage of French restaurants but it is surprisingly difficult to find a reliable, unfussy French bistro that cares more about the quality of food than the glitzy atmosphere. In SoHo, Balthazar has been the French bistro everyone knows about, swarming with tourists on a nightly basis, but my experience there this year in terms of food was quite mixed. If you are in SoHo or nearby area and want to explore the essence of French bistro cuisine, I’ll give you a hint: go to the western side of SoHo and step into this charming space with the sign “La Sirène” on the front. It has had a loyal following since opening almost 10 years ago, but for some reason it has also been hidden quite well under the radar. On a recent Saturday visit with my girlfriend, I had a lot to like about the food coming from the kitchen.
The menu at La Sirène is a collection of simple bistro classics. You’ve probably seen a lot of these and eaten a lot of these already. For bistro food, however, it is not always easy to be successful in execution department, which thankfully this kitchen is doing well quite consistently. Roasted escargots with butter and garlic sauce had the nice texture without overpowering richness. I haven’t seen mussels steamed with curry before, and enjoyed the spicy kick instead of creamy sensation that brought something unique to the mussels; my girlfriend and I happily dipped the remaining bread to the curry. The best appetizer of the night, however, clearly belonged to baked goat cheese tart with shallots, truffles and grape. It was a sensational dish that my girlfriend couldn’t stop raving about, with the silky smooth goat cheese (which I’m not even quite a fan of in the first place but had no complaint about this time) working so beautifully in the tart form for elegant balance in flavor.
Tournedos Rossini, a classic meat dish consisting of filet mignon topped with foie gras and red wine truffles sauce, was another winner, with the juicy, tender filet mignon really shining and the foie gras and truffles sauce adding a degree of richness that added to the texture (although my girlfriend said she wished the sauce came out a little less heavy). For dessert, we chose and absolutely loved croquembouche au caramel, basically a stuffed choux (a pastry dough) filled with French vanilla cream topped with caramel and sliced toasted almond. It was pure decadence with the delightful mixture of vanilla cream and caramel crust.
Getting a reservation at La Sirène isn’t too difficult, but the dining space quickly filled up in the course of our meal so I would still recommend booking in advance. The restaurant takes only cash or AMEX credit card, so be prepared. It has been long known for a BYOB place from Sunday through Thursday (although now they seem to charge small amounts for corkage fees); I will certainly go back during one of those days in the near future. I was a fan of the cozy, inviting dining space that seems perfect for an intimate date night or casual get together with a group of friends. If you’re looking for a satisfying meal with soulful French bistro food, La Sirène is one of the viable options I would be glad to recommend.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 558 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 925-3061