I should’ve listened to my gut after reading the blurb Matt Gross wrote about Casimir in the LES in New York Magazine. Quoting him:
“The bistro that helped launch Alphabet City’s own French Revolution a few years back has, sadly, become just another steak-frites factory. And a factory on the skids, at that. Chicken with mashed potatoes is certainly enjoyable, but the overall rush—the distracted waiter, the haphazard arrival of dishes, the neglected water glasses and bread basket—gives you the sense that, in the end, you are nothing more than a cog on an assembly line, to be turned this way and that, tweaked with benign indifference, until you can be ushered back out onto Avenue B, ready, finally, to find your fun elsewhere.” — Matt Gross, NY Mag
Well- I thought they might have learned a thing or two since that was written, after all the new joint opened [two weeks ago] way north, in a more critical neighborhood- the Upper East Side. Should I’ve expected disappointment here too? It IS the neighborhood where restaurants often times get away with charging $55 for an undercooked skate fish (Le Cirque). Then again if the neighbors in this hood are accustomed to paying $55 for mediocre skate fish- then I could’ve been slightly out of my element.
The small chalkboard menu seemed charming, except they only offered one per table and made it impossible for our party of four to truly dissect its contents before being rushed to place an order- appetizer and entrée per guest as customary in French dining.
Our server was too nice to be a hipster though the staff in general were very carefree at Casimir. He was rather French (happy and carefree), which is pretty similar to hipster (whose motto reflect: it’s cooler to purposely not care) minus the mean attitude.
We were literally given a minute to study the non-existent cocktail menu before being rushed to order a drink. When I inquired about cocktails- our French native quickly slurred a few things and mentioned rum, vodka, and gin. I inquired about the red drink in a martini glass I noticed two men were sipping by the bar but he didn’t seem to know what they were. So I ordered what he suggested instead, the drink with the rum.
According to our server- this was a French drink. I couldn’t make out his accent long enough to write down the name, but it was delicious.
Our dining partners that evening included the insatiable-critic (who was spotted again by the chef with a casual walk through x2 not before taking a triple glance at Gael Greene, then crawling back into his kitchen), ethnojunkie, and our favorite Mexican chef/ author and newly indicted into the JBF’s Who’s Who, Zarela Martinez. We all agreed the service was subpar. In fact Gael had to repeatedly instruct the server and bus persons to clear our table and bring more water. We asked for more bread (about four, five times). I watched our server remember he owed us the bread basket when the busser returned and almost gave ours away to our neighbors.
The charcuterie was acceptable, however nothing spectacular. I can’t seem to really enjoy charcuterie these days without being overtly critical. Does anyone make their own cornishons anywhere? I bet not in New York. I have proof it all comes from a can.
Gael and Zarela both seemed to enjoy the quaint French bistro. They can always use another French restaurant uptown. For me- it’s a different story. I’m a classically trained French cook, and I may never be satisfied at this point- except for that magnificent food adventure at Le Bernardin a few years ago- I could never forget about that experience. Once you go there, you cannot stop being this critical about French food.
Though the food and service was subpar at Casimir- we did enjoy ourselves as it was the first sidewalk café installment of the season. That extra half hour wait (we had reservations for 7:30) was worth it to sit outdoors. The outdoor seating nearly triples the amount of guests at Casimir- so perhaps that could give reason why they weren’t prepared. Either that or the management is completely bonkers opening up a restaurant in the UES with no good experience in running a restaurant, in the exact location where Gael Greene has witnessed 16 places get shuttered. Clearing dirty dishes and water refills should be second nature- if you’re charging $25 for a piece of steamed fish with a handful of haricot verts (French green beans), water and bread shouldn’t be a problem no? Were we asking for too much?
I don’t think I’ld go back, if I wanted subpar service with mediocre French bistro food- I’ld rather go to Pastis. At least they get extra points for people watching and they have more room.
Matt Gross- you were right. We should’ve listened to you.
1022 Lexington Avenue at 73rd Street
New York, NY 10021
Tel: (212) 879-6190