No restaurant perhaps represents the quintessential West Village vibe better than Buvette, a French bistro led by chef Jody Williams. When you walk in, you see a charming no-reservations dining space that is more or less perfect for all kinds of occasions, whether going on a second date or taking out some important people in your lifetime. Shockingly, in all my years of culinary journey in New York City since 2011, Buvette has evaded me thus far, perhaps because of the no-reservations policy and the perpetually packed dining space. When my wife Jun’s friend was visiting from out of town, we found this occasion to visit Buvette. I was thinking our get-together would be more like just having wines with maybe a snack or two on the side, but given the size of our party (four), we managed to get enough plates for me to get a better picture of the restaurant’s food offering. Overall, Buvette won’t blow your mind but it still offers a lot of satisfying dishes.
The concise and daily changing menu at Buvette consists largely of small plates for sharing, mostly priced below $20. To start the meal, grab one or two kinds of toasts (“tartinettes”) with various ingredients on top. I thought the one with walnut pesto, parmesan and thyme was a little bit too heavy, but was definitely impressed with the other toast with sweet peppers, onions and chorizo. There was subtleness to the way these ingredients worked together so beautifully to create such a satisfying bite; while I’m not really a breakfast person, I wouldn’t mind having this toast for my breakfast every day! Other simple-looking dishes were also well-executed, like the roasted beets with almonds and horseradish crème that displayed nice texture, or the potato gratin that offered hearty feel, or the leeks in mustard vinaigrette that didn’t overpower our palate yet had the right amount of citrusy flavor.
Steak tartare was also certainly better than most other average places with the texture level that made the dish quite addictive. Coq au vin, that classic chicken dish stewed in red wine and accompanied by mushrooms, was also delicious, although we wished the portion were larger (even at higher prices) to accommodate our party size. The only disappointment, surprisingly, turned out to be burger with fries which we ordered only because one of our friends in the party wanted some fries and the restaurant didn’t have stand-alone fries. The burger was a little bit too heavy, and the fries were just over-salted shoestring ones. The blemish from the dish, however, did not change our opinion that Buvette is still a good restaurant.
As noted above, the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations and the dining space tends to fill up very quickly (we were lucky to be seated showing up at 7 p.m. on a Thursday evening) so be prepared to show up early or endure long wait times. There is full bar with classic cocktails and French-centric wines that will more than just complement your meal. The service can get a little uneven from time to time largely due to the crowd, so you might have to put up with some lags in your server’s visits here and there. Buvette is the type of institution that has contributed to the foundation of West Village culture that we know today; it is not just an iconic space but actually has some delicious food that you can genuinely enjoy if you are all for simple but carefully prepared dishes from France.
- Creativity: 7.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 42 Grove Street, New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (212) 255-3590