Rethinking French Classics

Rethinking French Classics

Embracing the Spirit of French Cuisine

As I step through the doors of Camperdown Elm, a Brooklyn-based restaurant that has been making waves in the culinary scene, I can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation. This isn’t your typical French bistro; it’s a place where the owners, chefs, and staff have set out to rethink and redefine the very essence of French classics.

I’ve always been a devotee of French cuisine, with its rich history, bold flavors, and unapologetic dedication to culinary craft. But let’s be honest, sometimes the stuffy formality and rigid traditions of French dining can be a bit of a turnoff. That’s where Camperdown Elm comes in, offering a refreshing take on the classics that celebrates the spirit of French cuisine while infusing it with a distinctly modern, Brooklyn-centric sensibility.

Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Classics

As I sit down at one of the cozy, well-appointed tables, I’m immediately struck by the menu’s bold and innovative approach. The chefs here have taken the time-honored dishes that have defined French gastronomy for centuries and subjected them to a process of deconstruction and reconstruction.

Take, for example, the classic steak frites. At Camperdown Elm, this beloved dish is transformed into a work of art, with the steak itself perfectly seared and seasoned, and the frites reimagined as a crispy, golden-hued nest of potato strings. But the real showstopper is the accompanying sauce, a rich and velvety béarnaise that has been infused with unexpected flavors like tarragon and shallot.

And then there’s the coq au vin, a dish that has graced the tables of French households for generations. Here, the tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken is braised in a complex, wine-based sauce that’s been elevated with the addition of smoked bacon and pearl onions. The result is a harmonious blend of familiar flavors, elevated and elevated again.

Honoring Tradition with a Twist

But it’s not just the main dishes that showcase Camperdown Elm’s culinary wizardry. Even the humble bread basket has been given a makeover, with the inclusion of house-baked brioche rolls that are light, fluffy, and infused with the essence of vanilla.

And let’s not forget the cheese course, a cornerstone of any proper French meal. Here, the chefs have curated a selection of artisanal cheeses from both sides of the Atlantic, pairing them with unexpected accoutrements like quince paste, honeycomb, and candied nuts.

As I savor each bite, I’m struck by the ways in which the Camperdown Elm team has managed to honor the traditions of French cuisine while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, but one that they’ve mastered with aplomb.

Embracing the Unexpected

But the real magic of Camperdown Elm lies in its willingness to embrace the unexpected. Take, for example, the restaurant’s signature cocktail menu, which features a selection of libations that pay homage to classic French apéritifs and digestifs, but with a distinctly modern twist.

I decide to start with the Boulevardier, a riff on the Negroni that substitutes bourbon for gin. The result is a rich, complex, and utterly satisfying sipper, with notes of bitter orange and a hint of spice. As I sip, I can’t help but marvel at the way the bartenders have managed to capture the essence of a French café while still keeping things firmly rooted in the Brooklynite aesthetic.

And then there’s the wine list, which reads like a love letter to the viticultural regions of France. From the bracing, mineral-driven Chablis to the bold, tannic Bordeaux, the selection is both comprehensive and captivating. But what really sets Camperdown Elm apart is its commitment to showcasing lesser-known appellations and grape varieties, introducing diners to the full breadth and diversity of French winemaking.

Fostering Conviviality and Community

But Camperdown Elm isn’t just about the food and drink; it’s also about the experience. As I look around the dining room, I’m struck by the sense of warmth and conviviality that permeates the space. The servers are attentive and knowledgeable, but never stuffy or overbearing. And the atmosphere itself is relaxed and convivial, with a mix of intimate tables and larger communal seating arrangements that encourage a sense of community and shared experience.

It’s this commitment to fostering connection and conversation that truly sets Camperdown Elm apart. In a world where so many restaurants have become mere transactional spaces, this Brooklyn-based gem has managed to capture the essence of the French dining experience – the sense of gathering, of savoring, of lingering over a meal and enjoying the company of friends and strangers alike.

Embracing the Future of French Cuisine

As I finally push away from the table, reluctantly acknowledging that my meal has come to an end, I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement for the future of French cuisine. Camperdown Elm has shown that it’s possible to honor the traditions of the past while still embracing the bold, innovative spirit of the present.

And who knows what the future may hold? Perhaps the chefs at Camperdown Elm will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible, reinventing classic dishes in ways that we can scarcely imagine. Or maybe they’ll turn their attention to exploring the rich diversity of French regional cuisines, bringing their unique perspective to the beloved specialties of Provence, Burgundy, or the Basque Country.

Whatever the future may hold, one thing is certain: Camperdown Elm has firmly established itself as a must-visit destination for anyone who appreciates the art of French cuisine. So, the next time you find yourself in Brooklyn, be sure to stop by and experience the magic for yourself. Your taste buds will thank you.