First Impressions: Racines NY

An amuse-bouche east of Church? Was I dreaming?

Adam and I had been invited to the second round of friends-and-family dinners at Racines NY (before it opened last night), and at first I couldn’t stop telling everyone how tickled I was that southeast Tribeca had an ambitious restaurant that I didn’t even have to cross a street to reach. Racines NY has taken the old Sunny One Chinese restaurant on Chambers and made it somewhere you’d actually want to linger, with a spare, semi-industrial vibe. A bar on the western wall seats 13, while there are room for around 40 diners at tables and the chef’s counter along the open kitchen. The tables in the front of the room appear to be more bar-oriented, but the word is that you can just drink anywhere (except the chef’s counter) and eat at the bar. I was concerned about the potential for noise until someone pointed out that the ceiling is actually lined in acoustical tiles made to resemble tin.

As the “NY” implies, Racines NY is related to an establishment elsewhere. For our outpost, David Lahner, who owns the two Racines in Paris, has partnered with David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines and sommelier/manager Arnaud Tronche. “Wine is my passion,” says Tronche, in what might be the understatement of the year. Racines NY has the capacity for 8,000 bottles of wine, with around 800 on the list at any given time. As you might expect, the stemware is lovely.

Chef Frédéric Duca’s menu is refreshingly small: five appetizers, four entrées, a cheese plate, and three desserts. Despite the “April” heading, the menu may change at any time, market depending. The aforementioned amuse bouche was a celery velouté with turmeric, which we were told to pick up and drink. And Adam was pleased that the butter wasn’t ice cold and that it had been salted.

He ordered the steamed egg with cauliflower mousselline and the monkfish, while I went for the artichoke ravioli and the lamb with bulgur, lemon, olives, and Swiss chard. For dessert, we split the panna cotta with apple granita and the chocolate-caramel tart. There were no duds, but there were standouts: the egg, the lamb, and perhaps most of all, that tart. All of the wines—there were three whites and three reds available by the glass—were delectable. Racines NY is the kind of place where you can put your wine order in the staff’s hands.

The deal was that we wouldn’t have to pay for dinner or one glass of wine, but that we would have to offer feedback. To that end, we were handed forms at the end of the meal with our bill. I don’t know why Adam and I bothered to fill out two forms, since we wrote the same things: that we didn’t think classic rock was the best music choice; that the lighting was perfect; that the room could perhaps benefit from a bit of softening (more art, bigger flowers, a sheer curtain on the Chambers window); that the pours might be a tad small. I recall the glasses we ordered being $10 to $14, and on the way home, we decided that we’d rather be the person who spends too much than the one who orders glass after glass after glass…. (We didn’t see the wine list, but we will.) And we said that all of these were mere quibbles—that for not even being open yet, Racines NY already has a charm and balance that’s wildly welcome here—and by here, I don’t only mean southeast Tribeca.

Lunch service will start in a month or so, but there are no plans for brunch. You can make a reservation by calling; OpenTable will come in time.

Racines NY is at 94 Chambers, 646-644-6255;

Racines NY facadeRacines NY tableRacines NY kitchenRacines NY wines by glassRacines NY lambRacines NY panna cottaRacines NY tartRecent New Kid on the Block/First Impressions articles:
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  1. I knew we could trust you to give us the scoop on Racines. Cannot wait to try it!

  2. Racines is a true delight! It’s a warm and friendly, there’s a lot of attention to detail, and the service is right-on. Plus the food is some of the best the neighborhood has seen in quite a while.