Six (Mostly) French Things We Love About the Wythe Hotel’s New ‘Le Crocodile’ Restaurant
Images by Read McKendree
These days, with weekend hordes taking over Williamsburg’s N. Wythe Avenue, and the spillover reaching over to Greenpoint’s Franklin Street, it’s easy to forget that about a decade ago, both hoods were just reaching ‘coolhunter’ recognition point. Indeed, when the Wythe Hotel opened in 2012, it brought a jolt of grownup urbanity to an area more used to self-parodic hipster dives.
The rooftop bar, then The Ides, now Lemon’s, was pulling people across the river from the Gansevoort, and the Reynard restaurant was a genuine scene.
But this being NYC, things changed quickly once developers realized that all those empty lots and car repair shops on the northside had billion-dollar views of Manhattan, once you built up a few stories. Boutique hotels, and their restaurants, now outnumber bike shops and dance clubs…even Output, after five years of Berlin style nightclubbing, closed in 2018. So the Wythe’s new restaurant Le Crocodile arrives prepared to do battle with all these other new epicurean contenders…and luckily it’s, well, armed to the teeth.
Boasting chefs from chic Greenpoint bistro Chez Ma Tante—itself a notable result of gentrification—Le Crocodile (how long before everyone just starts calling it Le Croc?) is now serving up classic French fare, with wonderfully inspired touches, and atmosphere to spare.
Here’s what we loved.
In both Brooklyn and Paris, restaurateurs seem equally aware of how lighting, recognizable design elements, and intelligent use of space are all critical in creating an invitingly endemic ambiance. Here it’s a delicate balance of BK meets Par-ee (by local design studio LOVEISENOUGH), with brick walls, booths of deep burgundy leather, prevailing dark wood detailing, patterned floors, and theatrical globe chandeliers all lending warmth to the high-ceilinged industrial space. The effect is both dramatic and welcoming. Seated next to us was a heavily tattooed couple avec toddler…so we felt right at home with the crowd, as well.
Steak frites was once as important in our lives as our Serge Gainsbourg records—but its ubiquity has dampened its significance. Le Crocodile, however, brings the steak au poivre, not as common as you would think in NYC…and it’s as good as any we’ve had in our fave Marais brasseries. Seriously.
Almost as crucial is a good salade Lyonnais. And Le Crocodile smartly reinvents it with the familiar lardons replaced by chunks of smoked eel to incredibly delicious effect. We were instructed to mix the semi-poached egg around as the dressing, and the result was epicurean sublimity.
Though the various duck and chicken liver incarnations also hold a special place for us, we’re honestly lucky to find an unimaginative pâté de campagne on any given menu. But here it comes in six different and glorious possibilities, including country pâté with foie gras and pistachio, chicken liver pâté with cassis jelly, and pâté grandmère with apple mustard. Order one up at the bar, paired with a rustic red glass of Burgundy, for some serious art de vivre.
Gin and tonics are a signature at the bar, with six versions of the classic (by drinks wizard Jim Kearns of Slowly Shirley fame) that combine a variety of spirits with varying tonics; we had Tanqueray No. 10 London Dry Gin with citrus tonic, and it was simplicity and perfection at once. The enormous wine goblet it was served in was a bit of a head scratcher at first…but then we just went with it.
Complacency often informs the bottom of bistro and brasserie menus: here’s your crème brûlée, or a familiar sorbet, and that’s about it. But Le Crocodile offers nothing less than a dozen very sweet options, including profiteroles, tarte tatin, chocolate pot de crème and, oui, crème brûlée. If you’re having a Proustian moment, the madeleines come in generous groupings of six or 12.