French food can feel buttery, too proper, overly sauced and maybe even a little stuck up. However, leave it to Major Food Group to remake French food into a fun, young and recognizable menu. At the Ludlow Hotel in the Lower East Side, Dirty French is pimped out with hot pink roosters and florescent lettering. The candlelit ceiling, mirrored room, red and black drapes and scattered dolls with “blood,” if you, will provides for an eclectic yet trendy scene. Everything about Dirty French feels invigorating. While Carbone, its sister restaurant, has more of a classic and old New York feel, Dirty French emits a too cool for school vibe, but it is such a powerful feeling in there that it deserves it. The food on the other hand lives up to it. The booths and large menu create a perfect triple date environment or friends night out so you can try several winners.
When I asked a professional food writer friend of mine what to eat at Dirty French and she replied with “the bread,” I thought she must mean you can order bread off the appetizer menu because surely she wouldn’t call out the complimentary bread before anything else. Welp, I was wrong and she was right. That free herby flat bread almost like naan is damn good and paired with some fluffy goat cheese spread. Order two rounds of this – no one will judge. My favorite appetizer was the Roasted Clams with Berbere Spices. Eight come to a plate and they are like little sea gems you’ll easily pop back. I also loved the Lamb Carpaccio with yogurt and figs. Oh, those figs! This dish is a one hit wonder, and frankly I’ve never had lamb carpaccio and am rarely impressed with this animal. While you’re at it, go for the Foie Gras. The Chevre kale salad with sunchokes and curry was also bursting with flavor and tasty. As soon as the Broccoli Au Gratin side dish hit the table, another one was immediately ordered without a thought. This cheesy green understands your needs and your stomach.
If you’ve read anything about Dirty French beforehand, you know that the Chicken and Crepes for two has been shouted from the rooftops. I personally love when a chicken for two is served in two parts. It’s like “hey, here I am and surprise my sidekick is right behind me and even better!” The chicken breast, served in an iron pan lays atop a curry sauce that has a tad too much curry flavoring but the meat itself is tender and juicy enough to make you forget about it. The second part of the chicken, however, the feet and some other bone has a thick black coating that literally tasted like the best bbq burnt ends and brought me to heaven. While gnawing on a bone may never be ladylike, it was worth it for that guy. This meat on the bone distracted my taste buds so much I missed the crepe accompaniment. Eh, I didn’t need it. We also had the Steak Au Poivre which is short rib with lime and cornichon. Definitely tasted more like a steak than a tender short rib.
I think ordering most of the appetizers, salads and, of course, the chicken is the way to go as opposed to a lot of entrees. I wasn’t that impressed with the Bouillabaisse. It was much too heavy and rich for my taste. The entrees came out a bit too speedy because then once we were done it was time to go, and you won’t ever want it to be the end here. Also, obsessed with the cocktails. Who would’ve thought a tequila cocktail would pair well with all of this food? It did. The Belmondo with blanco tequila, pear eau de vie, ginger, gentian and fresh lemon juice will easily lure me back to the bar and the restaurant time and time again.
If I was ever going to write a love letter to a restaurant, this would be it. Dirty French, I can’t wait for our second date.