French bistros are all the rage about town, from sprawling Lafayette in NoHo to Chelsea’s humble Montmartre. The restaurant Charlemagne is the latest West Village entry into this Euro enclave. Its moules frites ($21) exemplify the spot’s raison d’etre — they are simple, well-executed Gallic gems.
A pot comes full of plump mussels, open and aching to be eaten. A slice of grilled bread is the only other item in the vessel; well-poised to sop up the sumptuous broth at the bottom, a splendid and delicately balanced blend of white wine, butter, lemon, shallots and fresh thyme. A cone of salty, hot-out-of-the fryer frites also comes in handy for finishing the broth. C’est tout.
Opened in April, Charlemagne slipped into a former porn shop. The untrained eye would never know that it hadn’t always been a restaurant, a place where elegance and comfort collide with gleaming picture windows, a shiny tin ceiling, polished wood bar and comfy red banquettes. And while the spot may seem to be following a trend, other classics such as steak tartare ($15) prove that Charlemagne is no flash-in-the-mussel pot.
679 Greenwich St.