"Finally, another darling atavistic brasserie in the West Village," cooed no one, we're guessing, when Charlemagne opened last month at the corner of Christopher and Greenwich Streets. Yet last Friday night it was bustling, and it was hard to fault the moths drawn to such an attractive flame. Sometimes you just want the warm flicker of a tried-and-true formula, and Charlemagne seems to be be hitting all the right parts of the equation. In fact, you'd never know the place used to be an adult novelty store.

Restaurateur Vanessa Recipe, who also owns the nearby restaurant Sel et Gras, seems to know what she's doing. The well-designed room is perfectly lit, with a deluxe reclaimed mahogany bar and big windows lining two walls to make it an appealing daytime haunt. During renovations, the original honeycomb tile floor was discovered under a layer of linoleum and left intact, and behind the drop ceiling workers uncovered a gorgeous antique tin chandelier, which has been refurbished and is now the focal point of the room.

The chef, Jodi Bernhard, has cooked for President Obama and worked the kitchen at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia and Casa Pomona on the Upper West Side. During a our press preview we inhaled the excellent roasted garlic spread that comes with the bread; it has a subtle sweetness that tempers the intensity, but still packs enough punch to ward off vampires and potential make-out partners. The tomato tartare is a very well-executed vegetarian option if you like salty food; who needs flesh with so many capers? And we were digging the Salt Cod Croquettes, which are accompanied with a warm ravigote sauce. (Peruse the full menu below.)

Maybe there's room in the neighborhood for a reasonably priced brasserie of this nature, and Chef Bernhard, who accents the menu with Spanish touches, seems legit. A requisite raw bar complements things, featuring the traditional oysters & clams on the 1/2 shell, shrimp or lobster cocktail, marinated mussels. But there's also a plancha (a Spanish flat top grill) that kicks out razor clams, mushrooms, on the vine cherry tomatoes, scallops, etc. As for beverages, Charlemagne is currently serving only beer and wine until the coveted full liquor license is obtained. The wines-by-the-glass menu isn't all that spectacular, but we're sure the West Village will survive somehow.

679 Greenwich Street, off of Christopher Street // (646) 558-5623

Charlemagne Menu