March 15, 2010

Chef Maryann Terillo returns to the West Village with Bistro de la Gare


On the winters’ rainiest and windiest night, we ventured around the corner to the recently opened Bistro de la Gare, where chef-owner Maryann Terillo is turning out rustic Mediterranean food for a neighborhood that has welcomed her back with open arms. Terillo last cooked at Jarnac on West 12th and Greenwich Streets, which closed last June after owner Tony Powe was unable to come to terms with his landlord.

The night we visited, Terillo wasn’t sure how many guests would keep their reservations, what with the aggressively foul weather outside.  She need not have worried. The room filled to capacity during the hour after we arrived, and at the end of our meal, we were gently ushered out to make room for the night’s second seating.

The 43-seat restaurant is located 626 Hudson Street (at Jane Street), in part of the space that formerly housed Mi Cocina; next door, Móle Mexican Bar and Grill, an import from the Lower East Side, has opened. The Bistro’s interior is simple, but warm and welcoming, painted in brown and beige tones with red and steel blue accents. The double-exposure pinhole camera photographs that adorn the walls are by Yoshi Hija.  On the menu, Terillo has kept Jarnac regulars happy by including her signature roast baby chicken with walnut butter and her winter-vanquishing cassoulet. We also enjoyed the roasted cream of tomato soup and a tender plate of braised short ribs, as well as a terrific cinnamon panna cotta garnished with nuts and winter fruit.   

Terillo is assisted in the kitchen by chef Elisa Sarno, whom she first hired to work for her when she ran another West Village restaurant, Café de la Gare, between 1984 and 1991. I was happy to see Terillo back in her element, supervising her new but eager staff and shuttling back and forth from the front of the house to kitchen as she kept an eye on things. After suffering the frustrations of months of delays due to permit-related bureaucratic snafus she seemed thrilled to be working again.

Even after the restaurant’s  soft opening, there were difficulties, including a period of time where the kitchen struggled with no gas, working with makeshift electric burners and the chefs even doing some cooking at home. The restaurant is still BYOB, which it seems they can’t announce to customers, but I can.  Call before you go in to see if that’s still the case.  For fans of brunch, the Bistro had a soft opening of its brunch menu this past weekend, which looks terrific and includes a fair number of southwestern dishes.

Bistro de la Gare,  626 Hudson Street at Jane Street, New York, NY 10014, (212) 242-4420, bistrodelagarenyc.com