Monday, December 9, 2013

Bon Appetit: Cafe Henri

*UPDATE* This restaurant is (very sadly) now closed.

TL;DR: ★★★★★

IMMEDIATELY fell in love with this place. Food = awesome. Service = slow but great. Ambiance/decor = very cute. Prices = affordable! It'll definitely be one of my go-to brunch/coffee spots now.

Food: ★★★★★
Ambiance: ★★★★★
Staff: ★★★★★

Price: $-$$
Number of visits: 1

(Bedford St. & Downing St.)

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, I met up with a fellow Wolverine to catch up and shoot the shit over some clean, fresh French food at Cafe Henri. Just like Cafe Condesa, this tiny space is another hidden gem in the West Village — and I'm so glad I discovered it!

We came in around 1 p.m., and it was packed, so we ended up having to wait around 20 minutes. Once we finally escaped the cold, though, we were immediately taken over by the coziness of the cafe and greeted by a very nice, polite French waiter.

Cafe Henri has a pretty extensive menu, but it's not overwhelming. You're definitely provided with a lot of choices: crepes (sweet and savory), sandwiches, eggs benedict, salads, etc. After pondering for a bit, my friend and I decided to get an order of the tartine ($3.50), or warm toasted baguette with butter and raspberry jam. The bread was toasted to perfection, but the real star of this dish was the jam — it was simply delicious! Not overly sugary, with just the right amount of fruitiness, this jam was surely not from a store-bought jar.

For my entree, I ordered the make-your-own crepe ($9.50), which allowed me to choose three ingredients from  cheese, ham, egg, chicken, sweet or spicy sausage, grilled onions, ratatouille and mushrooms. I went with spicy sausage, egg and grilled onions, and I was not at all disappointed. The onions were soft and sweet, the egg was neither too runny nor rubbery, and the sausage, albeit not spicy at all, had a great salty bite. On top of the fresh and well-prepared ingredients, the crepe batter was seriously good — super soft and doughy, just the way I like it.

Crepe with spicy sausage, egg, grilled onions and side salad

The dish also came with a side salad, and even this was great too! I'm not a huge fan of salad, so when I say a salad is good, it's really good. It might have been the sweet and tangy dressing, or maybe it was the fresh, leafy greens juxtaposed with the refreshing carrots and cucumber, but whatever it was, I loved it.

After brunch, we had planned on going somewhere else for coffee, but right before we were about to ask for the check, I got a glance of a gorgeous cup of cappuccino and remembered I'd heard that Cafe Henri had amazing coffee. So I suggested we stay, and boy, was that a good decision.

I ordered a cappuccino, and my friend got a latte, and these were MASSIVE. I wish I had a banana for scale or something because it was like drinking a big bowl of soup (especially the latte), not coffee. My cappuccino had a mountain of foam on it, with cocoa sprinkled on top, and underneath it was smooth, mild and delicious coffee. For only $3.50, this drink was seriously a steal.

Cappuccino and latte

We also ordered some dessert here because we liked what we'd had so much — Nutella crepe ($7), ohhhh yes. This was just as glorious as it sounds because, well, Nutella. The sexy (yes, sexy) chocolate-hazelnut spread/crack oozed out from the layers of soft and doughy crepe as we sunk our forks in, and it was gone before we knew it. I'm kicking myself right now for not having taken a picture of it, but it's OK, cause that just gives me an excuse (like I even need one) to go back and get this again.

Quick notes about the staff and ambiance:
  • Everybody was incredibly friendly here and not pushy at all. In fact, they took their sweet, sweet time to get us our checks, which we didn't mind as we were chatting up a storm, but the overall service did seem a little slow, maybe because the servers are pretty laid back. Either way, they were very polite and pleasant. 
  • I absolutely loved the cozy and homey atmosphere of this place. The decor, though it was quite simple since there was not much space at all, was, not surprisingly, consistent with the French cafe theme and altogether lovely. 
  • Bonus side note: This place closes abnormally early — daily at 4 p.m. Don't make the same mistake I did with another friend and plan to come here for dinner because you will be heartbroken and in tears.
Needless to say, I'll definitely be returning to Cafe Henri. Maybe I'll try the chicken ratatouille sandwich next time... Or the eggs benedict? Gah, I'm hungry now.

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