Put on your beret and head to Williamsburg! Joining the likes of recent French dining stalwarts in the city is Le Crocodile, a gorgeous spot inside the Wythe Hotel. Led by chefs Jake Leiber and Aiden O’Neal of Chez Ma Tante acclaim, the neo-bistro is inspired by both Parisian and New York haunts, pairing dramatically soaring ceilings and abstract lighting fixtures with warm wood touches throughout. Classy atmosphere aside, this Brooklyn newbie is already setting itself up as the rare restaurant that’s perfect for every scenario. (I spotted solo sippers killing time at the bar, relaxed date nights with beaus, an extended family gathering, and a classy bachelorette party pregaming during a recent visit.) Here’s a few other reasons why we think Le Crocodile has plenty of snap.
Le Crocodile makes one mean roast chicken.
This bird’s got the juice! Inspired by the iconic roasted chicken Jonathan Waxman served at Barbuto until its closure last year, Leiber’s tribute to the dish stays true to the original. Grilled and roasted, the poultry manages to be both perfectly golden on the outside and extremely juicy on the inside—a surprisingly hard feat to achieve in today’s age of semidry rotisserie and fried chicken. The twice-fried frites—inspired by Balthazar’s famous spuds—would be stellar on their own, but they magically get better the further you descend down the giant mountain they present on the plate with your big bird. The fries anchoring the bottom soak up much of the chicken’s punchy herb jus, and they might just be your favorite bites of the evening.
But all of the hearty brasserie fare deserves an ooh la la.
Plan on tabling whatever “healthy eating” New Year’s resolutions you made. Le Crocodile’s bistro-esque fare is unapologetically comforting. French onion soup is smothered with molten Gruyère; omelets are as buttery and fluffy as Jacques Pépin’s; and pâtés and rillettes are presented with warm sourdough slices. The few dishes that branch away from fine French fare—a lovely cacio e pepe made with orzo inspired by a recipe from Leiber’s mother, a molto Italiano pork chop paired with anchovies and burrata—are equally as delectable.
A generous dessert menu has something for everyone.
Most fine-dining establishments like to keep their dessert menu short and sweet, but Le Crocodile thankfully includes a dozen options. Offerings range from showstoppers such as profiterole pillows dripped in chocolate to pure simplicities like pears poached in Burgundy wine.
My personal favorite is the lip-puckering tarte au citron. Its silky smooth lemon curd and buttery crust were just as delightful as I expected they’d be, but the surprising element that tied every bite together was the unsweetened whipped cream dollop with a few sea salt flakes sprinkled on top. In terms of top citrus desserts in the city, this one might compete with Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie for being the crème de la crème.
Gin lovers will go gaga over the cocktails.
Along with staples of the juniper libation fam—martinis! Negronis! French 75s!—there’s also an extensive section of the drinks menu comprised solely of les gins tonics. Some are made with small-batch spirits, others with exotic bubblies, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. (I speak from experience.) What all these G&Ts have in common, though, is that they’re served in generously sized wineglasses. Fun moms who have the liver of a youngster, this one’s for you!