A stop Downtown reveals all things French
Bonjour. It is easy to understand why everyone is talking about Madame Claude Cafe in Downtown Jersey City.
This sweet little French bistro is so authentic, you feel like you’re sitting in a country kitchen in the South of France.
Housed in an adorable red brick building in our neighborhood, Madame Claude is very French – warm. welcoming and romantic. With its sunflower yellow walls, white tin ceiling and red curtains, it’s like stepping into a painting by Cezanne for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
French cookbooks and children’s stories like “The Little Prince” and “Babar” are lined in a row on a shelf along one wall. Toulouse-Lautrec prints hang in every comer. There’s a small counter with red vinyl stools, mahogany tables, exquisite hard-wood floors and a long innovative L-shaped booth with a narrow mirror above it, which adds depth to the sunny dining room that seats about 30.
I sat in the comer of the booth, drinking the most divine cappuccino I’ve ever had. They serve this delicious brew in big cups on lace doilies. The attention paid to details is elegant, yet comfortable and cozy. I can’t wait to bring my friend Cathy La Bruno here. A connoisseur of all things French, she’ll absolutely love it!
Even at noon on a weekday in this sleepy neighborhood, Madame Claude is wide awake. Artists stop by to grab cappuccino and croissants. Young mothers sit at tables dining on savory crepes with mesclun salad, while their offspring eat sweet chocolate-filled crepes, entertaining themselves with coloring books and crayons provided by the management.
Couples snuggle in the comer over steaming bowl of Grantinee a 1′Oignon (French onion soup, $6) and Le Croque Madame Claude (country bread with ham and cheese toasted with egg on top, $8.50). There are so many different kinds of crepes – every-thing from Lattantique (Mussels and creme fraiche, (8.50) to L’Antillaise (chocolate and coconut flake $5.50). The La Poulaillere crepe (chicken and brie, $8.50) is scrumptious. The filling is hot and gooey. The buckwheat crepe light as a feather. And the creme brulee, by the way, is simply to die for.
“We have a new menu,” co-owner Alice Troietto said, pointing out the entrees she and her partner Marline Fayolle have recently added since Madame Claude has become such a popular destination for dinner.
Culinary delights like Cites de Pore Sauce Moutarde au Miel (pork chops with honey mustard sauce served with roasted potatoes and broccoli rabe. $14) and Fitet de Saumon aux Epinards (baked salmon filet served with spinach and mashed potatoes, $18) are all masterfully created by chef Ricardo Castro, visible in the sleek silver kitchen in back.
Launching a cafe of this caliber Downtown didn’t seem odd to Alice, who has lived in Jersey City since she moved to the United States from a small village outside of Marseilles 14 years ago.
“I knew the people here would like it,” she said about her hunch, which proved accurate. “Its important now to call for reservations if you’re planning to have dinner after 6 PM.”
Also note, they don’t take credit cards or serve alcohol, so bring your own wine or beer.
Alice and Martine met on the job at Les Deux Gamins, the well-known French restaurant in Manhattan. Their friend, Herve Lefevere, was instrumental in helping the partners realize their vision. He built the cafe and oversaw its charming decor.
Don’t miss the tiny tiled and terracotta bathroom, reminiscent of a sexy French boudoir with it’s sizzling sequin chandelier, and take note of the chic handmade greeting cards by Marjorie Latham on sale.
With great food, excellent service and more atmosphere than the Moulin Rouge. Madame Claude will soon have a sidewalk cafe. Bon Appetit! Got a great escape? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org