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"Those thinking of opening restaurants in the West Village have especially stiff competition these days with Little Owl and Waverly Inn among the notable newbies in the neighborhood. Throw two-week-old Blue Ribbon Bar into the mix and the the field only gets tougher, especially for those coveting tasty fare with an ever-so-chic atmosphere gracing the dining room.

2007_02_fredcik2.JPGFor those of you without hours to wait for a table at these coveted tables, but a bit of a budget to spare, Frederick's Downtown (Hudson Street at Horatio), the third Frederick's in Manhattan owned by restaurateurs and brothers Frederick and Laurent Lesort, is a proximal option that'll satisfy searching palates. Opening last October with upscale intentions and a focus on Southeastern French cuisine, executive chef Vincent Chirico mixes classic French flavors with Mediterranean flare in a dimly lit dining room roving with well-dressed patrons and a buzzing level of gossip (sometimes in French). Photographs of New York notables, including a demurely dressed Kate Moss by our tableside, prompt one to take note.

Though a tapas section of the menu offers accouterments to entree fare, Gothamist and our dining companion opted to start with appetizer sized salads, bypassing the enticing foie gras du jour and tuna tartare for lighter fare. A golden beet salad with shaved ricotta was sweet with a touch of salty, freshly dressed with a lemon-y vinaigrette and sprinkled with fresh ground pepper. A frisee salad paired smooth, creamy goat cheese with walnuts and sweet caramelized pear, one of Gothamist's favorite flavor combinations.

Frederick's wine list is biased towards French, Spanish, and Italian wines, with a few California options sneaking onto the menu. Gothamist opted for a bottle of the Italian Barolo--one of approximately two dozen reds and another twenty whites on the sizeable menu. Entrees are separated into three sections: pasta, meat, and seafood. Classic French fare like cassoulet, rack of lamb, and steak frites are safe choices and reliably well-prepared, but for those looking for a bit more personality, Gothamist's recommends the seafood. Pan-seared scallops are served with a cauliflower puree and raisin sauce; grilled tuna topped with a rich marinade of tomato, squash, and olives, and a whole roast branzino, a European sea bass, is prepare stuffed with fresh thyme served on the bone. Gothamist's dining companion opted for the vegetarian-friendly ravioli, filled with a mascarpone-ricotta blend and swimming in a heart-stopping portion of brown butter sauce, rich, but a bit too tangy for our tastes.

Waiters are attentive (the wine refilled frequently and the label always turned towards the customers' favor), servings perfect in size, and ingredients consistently fresh. Where Frederick's shows weakness is in its failure to surprise, though what is served is served well. With a higher price tag, Frederick's is really the perfect spot for a celebratory night out—an anniversary or a promotion, or maybe just an excuse to wear a new dress.

Frederick's Downtown is located at 637 Hudson Street, 212.737.7300.

Photographs provided by the restaurant