Tables For Two
By Kate Julian
It’s not entirely clear whether this restaurant is named after the French monastery or the Métro stop, but, in either case, the more relevant names are Odeon and Café Luxembourg (Lynn Wagenknecht and her partners are behind all three enterprises). The space is much smaller, but the fare is about what you’d find at the other two restaurants, and that linkage, apparently, is more than enough of a draw: Cluny opened its doors in October and was quickly overrun.
Appropriately, the décor is all about pedigrees and taxonomies, both zoological and anthropological. The walls are adorned with mounted butterflies and a rather unsettling array of stuffed birds and fish. Juxtaposed with the taxidermic displays are portraits of various West Village neighbors who are friendly with the management—among them Diane von Furstenberg, Ian Schrager, and Wagenknecht’s ex-husband, the restaurateur Keith McNally. The rest of the setup—the clunky wineglasses, the uncomfortable café-style chairs, the cute waitresses in striped T-shirts—feels slightly overstudied in its simplicity.
The menu isn’t so much well edited as abridged. Here’s the requisite beet-and-goat-cheese salad, there’s the roasted chicken, and there, of course, are the steak frites. It’s all well executed (with the exception of some soggy fries), but somehow it feels lazy. It’s also very rich, from the lardons festooning the thickly oiled frisée salads to the seared foie gras splayed over the short ribs. Food like this wants to be eaten slowly and savored, but the dishes come out very fast, and you can’t quite keep up with the conveyor belt. By the time Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” plays for the second time, you’re past tired, and approaching glutted. Fortunately, the desserts are a high point: the ginger-yogurt cheesecake with mint offers a welcome jolt of flavor, and the profiteroles—ice cream stuffed inside perfectly crisp puffs of pastry—are good enough to inspire momentary infatuation with the place. A pity, then, that your plate is whisked away before you’ve finished. “The next reservation has actually arrived,” the hostess explains, in a stage whisper. “Didn’t they tell you that we’d need the table back?” (Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Entrées $22-$28.)