A majestic, grand edifice directly across the street from my apartment holds my fuzzy eyeballs captive each morning, as I stare out the window, squinting through the steam floating up from my cappuccino. I blink and revel at the vision across Broadway, drinking in the terra-cotta-tiled roof of the Apple Bank for Savings (née the Haarlem Savings Bank in 1863). This imperial edifice was constructed in the loose likeness of the imposing Palazzo Strozzi in splendid Firenze, and for a millisecond my soul is conveyed to Italy and I envisage starting my mundane morning in Florence, going to the market, tossing out a friendly buon giorno to countless produce vendors.
You might feel something similar if you are dining on the second floor of the newly minted Casimir & Co., on the corner of 73rd and Lexington Avenue. Gaze into the crepuscule and focus on the twinkling lights across the thoroughfare and then dream that you are sitting streetside somewhere in the Left Bank. When you open your eyes and multi-sensorially breath in the cuisine on your table, you may just believe you have been transported to the glorious City of Light.
A traditional bistro, and the cousin of the fourteen-year-old Casimir & Co. in the East Village, the uptown Casimir & Co. is equally as authentic as the original, but also every bit the modernized bistro with an uptown vibe. The menu is classic, delivering an authentic French experience; owners Mario Carta and Patrick Laurent, longtime restaurateurs, are both from the Lorraine and have imbued their eatery with the flavors of home—both literally in the cuisine and virtually in the décor and style.
Your first hint of that flair is the rustic charcuterie bar on the first floor, with the open kitchen as a backdrop. High-topped communal tables dot the ground-floor space, and just out the door is al fresco seating area (on the side street, not the avenue, so it's a bit more private and intimate), a perfect a tree-ringed setting for a late-day glass of sparkling. And speaking of drinking, the bar offers wine à la ficelle, a tasting/sipping concept that allows diners to pay solely for what they have consumed, a common practice in France, but a novel one stateside, and a brilliant one, so that you can sample many interesting wines without running up the federal deficit.
Upstairs is the quaint L-shaped "formal" dining room (how formal can it be with the menus scripted on blackboards?), and it is here you will experience more of France. Specials rotate daily, but you can always count on a few stand-outs: The charcuterie board is a winner—with offerings like saucisson sec, homemade duck rillettes, or succulent pâtés—as is the artichoke, with its flavorful Dijon and lemon- thyme vinaigrette. Another appetizer treat is the crudité basket (ideal for the table), blooming with market-fresh vegetables and a dill-yogurt dipping sauce and a classic anchoïade. For your main course, do not miss out on the most classic of French dishes, the signature house l'entrecôte (New York grass-fed), served up on a wooden plank, with the "secret" house sauce, and, of course, frites. Another favorite is the whole branzino, roasted in a sea-salt crust, with haricots verts, evocative of a lakeside dinner in the South of France. To top off a more than satisfying meal, order the giant coupe of fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate mousse, served as a family-style affair.
The top toque in charge of this fabulous (and I might add very reasonably priced menu) is executive chef Richard Krause, whose experience includes stints as the executive chef at Café Luxembourg, and in top positions at Baton and Melorse and earlier in his career, apprenticeships with the likes of Wolfgang Puck at the latter's legendary Chinois on Main, Spago, and Ma Maison.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to midnight, and soon will be offering take-out as well.
Casimir & Co., 1022a Lexington Avenue (73rd Street); 212-879-6190; casimirnyc.com