2007_07_cotedor.jpgA basket of country bread and baguette slices come to the table in a basket on a wooden cutting board. To one side of the bread is a shallow ramekin of homey duck rillette, made with shredded leg confit and duck fat. A few squares of butter, cornichons, and a dish of tiny pickled onions complement the breadbasket.

So Côte d’Or, the newest addition to the Tour de France restaurant group, opened earlier this week on Varick Street, and we stopped by for a press dinner last night. While sister restaurant Café D’Alsace does Alsatian food, Côte d’Or is all about the Burgundy. There’s a burger on the menu and steak frites, sure, but Côte d’Or specializes in regional French dishes that have all but vanished from menus around town. Things that wouldn’t be out of place in a vintage Julia Child cookbook, like beef bourguignon. Three days in, the place doesn’t seem to be consumed with reinventing duck terrine or delivering plates overwrought with authenticity. It’s just good Burgundy food, revisited.

A few menu standouts: an appetizer of four McNugget-sized pieces of mellow sweetbreads ($14), plated on a celery root remoulade and frisee tangle, garnished with toasted hazelnut halves. Bright citrus vinaigrette with a mustardy edge is spooned around the edges of the plate.

There’s also the Quenelle de Brochet ($9.75), Lyonnais-style- an airy cross between salt cod brandade and gefilte fish, made from milk, butter, and flour mixed into a kind of giant pike dumpling. Served with a thin slick of béchamel and vegetable brunoise.

Coq au vin ($16.95) comes in an ovenproof ceramic roasting dish with pieces of bacon, roasted carrots, pearl onions. A few black trumpet mushrooms mingling in the dark, fragrant sauce add a nicely chewy textural element on par with the red wine soaked chicken skin. The stew is served over mashed potatoes. Côte d’Or chef Phillippe Roussel uses free roaming Murray’s chickens in place of the battle-weary rooster called for in traditional coq au vin recipes.

Côte d’Or’s wine list features Red and White Burgundies starting at around $30 a bottle, and a longish roster of beers and ales. The restaurant is in process of finalizing its specialty cocktail menu. The Soleil de Bourgogne is especially good: as a mix of light and dark rums, sage leaves muddled with pineapple and lime, and a splash of champagne, it’s something like a French Mojito. Oh La La.


Côte d’Or
225 Varick Street
(212) 727-2775

photo: Coq au vin at Côte d’Or