The New York Neighborhood of Tribeca Gets French Bistronomy From a Renowned Japanese Chef
In addition to working at some of the world's best restaurants, Mitsunobu Nagae is opening his own restaurant with Michelin ambitions.
L'Abeille, a new French restaurant at 412 Greenwich Street, opened last week as a result of a group of neighbors in Tribeca who decided to build the restaurant themselves.
In Tokyo, Paris, and New York, Mitsunobu Nagae has worked under Joël Robuchon's banner until very recently. Recruiting Nagae and rallying behind him, the Tribeca group secured investors to fund Nagae's first solo restaurant, and honed the concept, which they call "bistronomy." You can enjoy fine dining on a weeknight at this restaurant, which straddles the line between casual bistro and haute French cuisine.
A translator said Nagae's idea is that you have the pedigree, you have people who know how to cook, but it's a much more relaxed atmosphere. There's less stuffiness, no jackets required to eat here. My background is drawing a lot of customers. My Robuchon regulars are coming in and some of them are coming in multiple times in the past week. People are comfortable but still getting an elevated experience.
He is currently chef de cuisine at Alain Verzeroli's Shun in Midtown, which has yet to reopen from its pandemic shutdown. Nagae was seriously considering returning to Japan at the time when one of his regulars, Rahul Saito, approached him with a suggestions e.t.c., Tokyo's L'osier and New York's L'Atelier Joël Robuchon, he also worked at Michelin-starred restaurants like L'Atelier Joël Robuchon.
When Nagae was considering returning to Japan, one of his regulars, Rahul Saito, approached him with a proposal. Nagae then became chef de cuisine at Verzeroli's Shun in Midtown, which has yet to reopen.
He cooked for my family once a week, as well as for my friends down the road, at our apartment, out of sheer desire to help, Saito said. After he cooked for us for several months, we started discussing how he creates dishes, how the costs work, everything. In the end, the question was, "Would you like to start your own business?" And that was the beginning of this venture."
Despite his desire to leave New York, Saito and his neighbors pushed for Nagae. He didn't want to leave the city where he had honed his own voice while executing the visions of other great chefs. He said that the palates of diners in New York are much more complex than anywhere else in the world where he has worked.
His statement was that in Japan or France, people are accustomed to eating only Japanese or French food. The taste palate of people here is uniquely diverse because they come from Latin America, Europe, Asia, and all over the world. In addition, people here are very open-minded to different tastes. I thought they'd only want steak! Since I moved to New York in 2017, I have learned so much about the food scene.
As a result of his exposure to a wide variety of restaurants in New York and his experience working in New York kitchens, his menu at L'Abeille is also diverse.
I have been influenced most by my co-workers so far. “Some of my co-workers come from Mexico, Paraguay, Russia, all kinds of different places, and they come up with great ideas when I'm in the kitchen.” As I listen to that, I think about how I can use that ingredient, what matches with what, how I can use that spice, and how I can change a cuisine's traditional sauce into a delicate French sauce.
It is French cuisine that is the starting point of all dishes. The chef adds his own twist when it feels appropriate. For example, he is preparing foie gras torchons with caramelized mangos and spicy chutneys. His bouillabaisse includes pan-fried American tilefish. In his squab dish, miso paste is smeared on top, then grilled over binchotan, and bourbon-chocolate sauce is drizzled over it.
The lobster dish he serves on his menu also pays homage to his mentors.
"French chefs are known for modifying their dishes from generation to generation," Nagae explained.
Chef Alain Passard originally poached lobster with a honey dressing and served it à la minute. In Nagae's take, lobster is served on its own, surrounded by buttered turnips, honey-vanilla sauce, citrus mousse, and a honey-vanilla sauce. Chef Alain Verzeroli modified the concept to become a lobster and turnip ravioli.
The beverage menu features French wine, cocktails and strawberry and lychee desserts with rose and shiso leaves.
A marble bar peeks into the kitchen and seats 54 people in the dining room, which also has green velvet banquettes and antique brass light fixtures.
As part of its opening month, L'Abeille will serve six-course and four-course prix fixe menus to introduce diners to the chef's palate. At the bar, they will also offer an à la carte menu.
In the future, Nagae plans to add lunch and rotate dishes according to the seasons.
His goal as a French chef is to win Michelin, but he said the restaurant's cooking and experience are not specifically geared toward Michelin. Michelin will come when it comes. It's certainly an ambition, but that's not what we're striving for.
It is my goal that this restaurant will not only offer great food but also excellent service and a welcoming and cozy atmosphere, as well as a sophisticated, elegant atmosphere. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here. I want it to be a place you can repeat repeatedly, even every week.