Catching Up With New Kids: L’Abeille à Côté

Tribecan Rahul Saito and his team have, in less than two years, with L’Abeille and then L’Abeille à Côté and then Sushi Ichimura, already garnered Michelin stars for two of the three restaurants and continue to make ‘top’ lists around the city. And they have single-handedly awakened that dark stretch of Greenwich south of Laight, expanding almost to reach the Hubert corner.

But for me the greatest achievement (well, keeping the lights on for the neighborhood is my #1 but after that…) in that lineup is the burger at L’Abeille à Côté, what they call the “casual and playful a-la-carte version of the elegant French-Japanese fare” served at L’Abeille next door. I might argue that this is not by any stretch casual dining but still the menu is more fun, the atmosphere more relaxed and the service less fussy than most in the upper tier of dining — everything is relative, after all. The price point is only slightly less casual — said burger is $38 and the recent prix fixe menu is $78 for three courses.

The menu was developed by chef Mitsunobu Nagae (above, with Rahul) who mostly works next door; night to night the meals here are prepared by executive sous chef Kyung Lee — whom you may have seen working the table at Taste — and sous chef Ken Koshihara.

I rarely order a burger unless it is required reading (Raoul’s in Soho, Diner in Williamsburg, Le Gratin on Beekman). And I am still thinking about this one — and we were there in October.

The burger is seasoned with teriyaki — it is strong, but I liked that — and it gets its points for complexity. It’s rich and moist and crumbly, with the softest bun — it reminded me of pork buns from Chinatown. I would also go back for the patty pan squash with crispy basil — it’s no longer on the menu but Chef Mitsu does have kabocha squash with black truffle and I love his vegetarian dishes. (Well, I guess you can’t count the baby eggplant served cold with ice cream and cilantro sauce since it had bacon on top.)

They get their bread from Crispy Heaven in Soho and serve it with miso butter — don’t skip it.

The jewel-box of a space, which opened last August and was designed by Marta Carvalho, is dark-paneled and lit low, with brass accents and velvet (very comfy) chairs — there’s barely even any ambient music. The space reads formal, and not exactly festive, but still relaxing and of course, as with the other two restaurants, the service is gracious, warm and friendly — they are not heavy on the old white-tablecloth serving rules, which I find exhausting.

A bit more background if you need it: Rahul spent the lockdown having weekly dinners prepared by Chef Mitsu, one of his favorite chefs from the Michelin-starred Midtown restaurant Shun, as a way to support him while restaurants were closed. Those meals are what they now try to replicate at L’Abeille (and the name is a riff on the chef’s nickname, Mitsu, which means honey in Japanese, hence “l’abeille” — the bee). Rahul then courted famed sushi chef Eiji Ichimura, whose Sushi Ichimura omakase restaurant is on the south wall of à Côté.

The menu has evolved in the past months, so if you are headed over, report back on the black cod. (Below, the crab croquette and the scallop vol au vent.)

L’Abeille à Côté
412 Greenwich | Laight and Hubert
212.542.3897
info@labeilleacote.nyc
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30 – 10p
Friday and Saturday: 5 – 11p
Sunday and Monday: Closed

 

15 Comments

  1. That burger looks delicious but I can’t justify spending $38 on that alone. People of Tribeca dont want more of these overpriced restaurants, we want good food at reasonable prices. That’s why only restaurants who hit that mark survive, not high end places that charge an arm and a leg.

    • I feel like I see these comments every time there’s a new restaurant that opens up in our beautiful neighborhood. If the “people” didn’t want it, I guess those kinds of establishments wouldn’t be drawn to the area? I think wanting “good food” at whatever price should be the norm, and let the market handle things. Unfortunately the reality of the area is that costs (ahem, real estate) tends to be on the higher end, so for businesses to survive, it requires a higher price point. It’s just math. So perhaps you should direct your ire elsewhere. You do you, there are plenty of more affordable burgers in the area, but to chisel down a restaurant because it doesn’t fit your needs does nothing for our community. Wish nothing but the best to all operators who choose to build a business in our neighborhood, expensive or not.

    • @Doug. Totally agree.

  2. $38 for a burger plus tip and tax = almost $50. And…no mention in the reporting as to what the cuts are that go into the burgers? Clearly this writer wants the ad dollars the restaurateurs will gladly fork over ofr a good mention…Not even a mention if Is it dry aged? As most residents who live in Tribeca, I find these groovy nouveau riche designer restaurants that live on PR to be a joke. Clearly only bridge and tunnel traffic and tourists will find these price points attractive. No matter how you cut it the neighbors in the hood that I know would rather get LaFrieda burgers and make them at home than get bilked for $50 burger and some phoney snobbish rip off that charges high prices because landlords are greety.

  3. TC ‘s mission is to be a cheerleader for all local businesses, not a critique. Tribeca has been a Petri dish of out of control inequality in the most Darwinian sense in the past decades. What brought people here forty years ago hardly exist any more, and later arrivals were very different species.
    ‘Global Franchise’ is wiping out local creation, ‘hospitality group’ has replaced individual restaurants.
    Where do you go for dinner while staying in a $1000/night hotel room down the street?

    • As one who’s pushing half a century in this neighborhood I have to second this harsh but realistic view. Keeping it front-of-mind would probably preempt a lot of commentary on these pages. I’d rail against the wave if I thought things could ever return to what I’d call normalcy in this neighborhood, but that’s not in the cards for the foreseeable future.

      • The owners of moderate-priced restaurants tell me it is very tough going. The neighborhood by itself cannot support many of them, and the workers are smaller in number. So the model instead has become destination dining. I would say it is lucky for us that we are the destination.

  4. Gee Whiz has great burgers.

  5. I’m glad to have Chinatown nearby for affordable dining, and lots of vegan and vegetarian options, of which there seems to be a severe dearth in Tribeca.

  6. Enough with these over priced restaurants with entitled attitudes, projected exclusivity and sky high prices. They’re all for the tourists and bridge and tunnel people who come to Tribeca with the hopes of seeing Taylor Swift just like they did with JFK Jr.

    Accolades and kudos go to the restaurants that have provided the neighborhood for years with good food, good service, moderate pricing and the where-with-all to standup to pandemics, floods, economic downturns caused by terrorist attacks, etc. (e.g. Odeon, Walkers, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Estancia, Bubby’s, etc….). These restaurateurs have earned our patronage and will continue to thrive.

    • As a neighborhood resident, I frequent every establishment mentioned in your (latest) rant. I also frequent l’abeille and l’abeille ‘a cote. All of them are terrific. They are just different (food, price points, ambiance, etc.). Not every restaurant is suitable for every person, taste, occasion, budget, etc. But isn’t it fantastic that we’re all lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with such vast diversity of dining options? We should all be celebrating the embarrassment of riches that the Tribeca dining scene offers to residents, tourists and even the much–maligned “bridge and tunnel” crowd. The more the merrier! I will also say that Rahul and everyone at l’abeille could not be better neighbors so I wish them continued success and a long tenure in that space.

      P.S. You know what else has changed a lot in the last 40 years? Absolutely everything and everyplace, get over it.

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