During the early years since I moved to New York City eight years ago, I used to love checking out speakeasy bars with secret entrances or codes to get into. The vibes of these places, many paying homage to the 1920s sensibility and ambiance during the Prohibition, also attracted me as something that is quintessential New York City (although the speakeasy was not specifically a New York-only concept back then and you see these types of bars everywhere in the world these days). Now happily married with my wife Jun, we haven’t gone out much to check out new speakeasies like we used to do together as friends. When I heard of a new French restaurant behind a secret entrance in a Greenwich Village art gallery, I was instantly hooked with its concept, especially upon hearing really good things coming from the kitchen led by a Brazilian chef Franco Sampogna who tried in some of the finest dining destinations in France. Jun’s birthday was coming up soon, so I thought Frevo would be a good choice to have a romantic dinner date. When we got to the gallery, we were greeted with a tall hostess and entered through one of the abstract paintings on the wall and our culinary adventure at Frevo began.
Frevo only has a five-course tasting menu (at a fairly reasonable price of $124 per person by New York standard excluding a few supplements). What really stands out about the cooking at Frevo is the kitchen’s technical sophistication without overplaying ingredients or techniques. The quinoa salad and hummus came as a delicious amuse bouche, and Jun and I were both very impressed with the earthy flavor of mushroom that accompanied gnocchi. While Jun is generally not a fan of foie gras, she did admit that the torchon with nuts and nori that the kitchen put together was very well-balanced in flavor. The one dish that we disagreed on was the Maine lobster with potato. Always more sensitive to the quality of seafood than I am, Jun thought the lobster wasn’t quite fresh enough although I thought it wasn’t too bad.
On the other hand, we both agreed that the halibut with funnel was a very good dish. Not only was the fish more or less perfectly cooked, but Jun was pleasantly surprised that the jus coming from fennel gave a distinct flavor of spice (the server said no spice was used) that really enhanced the fish’s flavor. The best dish of the night clearly belonged to the last savory dish, however. Jun and I had not had a good duck meat dish in a while, and the duck breast from Frevo, accompanied by cabbage and mustard, was simply impeccable in texture while the flavor was also very balanced without overpowering. Jun gave a huge thumbs up after making a quick work of the duck and we both agreed that this was the best duck dish we’ve had this year. If you have room before dessert and wouldn’t mind spending an extra $18, don’t skip the comte cheese course. We couldn’t stop nibbling this beautiful cheese while sharing a glass of red wine. The hazelnut “dulce de leche” dessert at the end was quite delightful as well without being overly sweet.
If you are willing to splurge a little, going for wine pairing (there is regular pairing at $78 per person and premium pairing at $180 per person) would be the way to go. Our regular pairing had a variety of wines from different parts of Europe that were thoughtfully picked by the restaurant’s young sommelier. The cozy and exclusive vibe of the dining space with one big counter where you can view the kitchen’s staff in action was another plus that contributed to a very good dining experience at the restaurant. Frevo is one of the bright newcomers in the New York City dining scene this year, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves over time. I wasn’t sure how frequently the restaurant change its tasting menu, but I will certainly be back when there is a new one.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 48 West 8th Street, New York, NY 10011
Telephone: (646) 455-0804