Cafe Cluny, Cafe Cozy
On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of dining at Cafe Cluny. Situated on a residential block in the heart of the West Village, this charming French restaurant initally had me worried that it would be a total flop. After calling about an hour before my reservation to see if they could add another guest to the party, which they assured me would be no problem, the hostess absolutely refused to seat me and my friend Michael until our 3rd guest arrived (which would be significantly later) and then tried to tell us that they were at capacity, could do nothing for us, and that they had no room for a party of 3. She did all of this with a supremely irritating smile on her face and a sickeningly chipper demeanor. All of this was, of course, extremely frustrating after I had already taken the time to check that this last-minute addition would be fine.
Fuming, I waited 15 minutes for our tiny corner table and got to looking at the menu. While this should have derailed the entire experience (I don’t like to feel unwelcome in restaurants), Cafe Cluny truly impressed me once the hostess was out of the picture.
To begin with, it is a beautiful space. Cozy and warm with a small bar and low lighting, you get the sense you’re indulging in a romantic dinner in some luxurious cabin in the French Alps. The tables are pretty close together, yet somehow, I was entirely unaware of my neighbors the entire meal. The crowd is respectfully toned down, fashionable and elegant, no hooligans here.
The service was quick, friendly and unobtrusive. Its as though our young waitress had a sixth sense; she knew exactly when we needed another cocktail and when to come take our order. To my appreciation, she gracefully avoided interrupting conversation too abruptly.
The menu at Cafe Cluny is very small, with only about 9 entree dishes and 6 appetizers to choose from, yet it is very well-curated. Everything looked so tasty that I had a difficult time selecting what seemed to be the best option. Ultimately, I went for the appetizer special of Heirloom Tomatoes with Orange Zest and Olive Oil and the Cluny Hamburger with Roquefort. Michael passed on an appetizer and went straight for the Steak Frites. Both of us shared the Brown Sugar Pecan Tart for dessert.
The tomato appetizer was a delicious mix of gigantic red and green heirloom tomatoes and yellow grape tomatoes. The tomatoes themselves were fresh and juicy, and the orange zest packed an unexpected punch. The burger was decadent: a perfectly cooked hunk of meat in a toasted bun, dripping in rich Roquefort cheese, truly a splurge for me. The steak frites was also prepared at the perfect temperature and was accompanied by little slices of fried potato heaven. The real coup of the evening though was the pecan tart. I can say that this tart was hands-down one of the best ‘comfort food’ desserts I’ve had in a long time. Gooey and oozing sweet brown sugar, this tart capped off splendidly a wonderful meal.
Despite the hostess hiccup in the beginning, I have nothing but glowing things to say about Cafe Cluny. While this is certain to be ridiculously cheesy, I actually felt like the chef really cooked with heart here. This place is ideal for a quiet meal on a rainy night, a romantic date, or if you just need some cozy cooking to cheer you up.