38 MacDougal Street off Prince
$80 for two, with 3 drinks, without tip
Updated, 2008: Provence will reopen in May as Hundred Acres.
I was delighted when I walked by Provence several months ago and saw that it was reopening with help from the owners of Five Points and Cookshop. I’ve eaten at Five Points twice without reservations and both times I left impressed and satisfied. I’ve only stopped by Cookshop for a drink, but one of their bartenders made them so beautifully, I stayed for two more. I visited Provence during opening week and felt completely at home as soon as I sat at the bar. The interior is a great mix of femininity and masculinity without the frills. Victor Hugo has never looked so good in a bathroom! Who knew homey furniture could be so sexy? I can’t wait to return when the windows are open and the flower boxes are filled in the summer.
We started with the endive salad with treviso, arugula and parmesan, a salad that would have been boring if not for its spiky lemon-anchovy dressing. I love bitter greens flavored by a little tart but kept at bay by aged, hard cheese. The sardines were lightly coated in breadcrumbs and served with lemon and chili oil–the right combination of tanginess and spiciness. The ravioli was rich but daintily stuffed with finely chopped snails, wild nettles and walnuts. A garlic-parsley sauce brought its decadence down a notch.
The Australian bartender was so charming, he immediately made me forget that I was there with someone. The Provence team has wisely chosen a small selection of French wines and Belgian beers. The Delirium Nocturnum, a dark ale, was of a maroon-brown color which tasted sweet and cinnamony while the Chateau de Roquefort clairette light and plummy. Provence was already loved by the neighborhood before it closed, but this reincarnation surely puts it on the MacDougal map.
Guess which restaurant also carries a MacDougal address?