Yes, sometimes we want to go all out and splurge on a big-ticket meal. But let’s face it — that’s generally not an everyday occurrence for most of us. And that’s why the same team behind two Tribeca fine-dining restaurants — l’abeille and Sushi Ichimura — are opening their latest endeavor, l’abeille à côté, on Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
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1. L’abeille à côté is definitely more casual than l’abeille, but it’s not a bistro or a diner, that’s for sure.
Michelin-starred l’abeille, which opened in March 2022, has garnered critical acclaim for its meticulous French Japanese fare in a sleek, intimate Tribeca dining room, securing its reputation as one of the city’s premier fine dining destinations.
With l’abeille à côté, the mood is decidedly more casual than l’abeille, but it’s not exactly a bistro or a diner, or even a wine bar, if you will. The restaurant was developed as a way to appeal to locals in the neighborhood, and to diners who appreciate l’abeille’s commitment to fine dining, but want something that’s a bit easier on wallets, and doesn’t require a two-hour tasting menu commitment.
“Our neighbors have been asking us for something a bit more casual, and this is it,” says co-owner Rahul Saito. “We put together a space where we can create an elevated dining experience, but in a much more casual format that our neighbors and l’abeille regulars could come in and enjoy.”
2. It’s literally in the middle of l’abeille and Sushi Ichimura.
L’abeille à côté occupies a 20-seat space that’s situated in between the group’s two other restaurants; to one side is sushi master Eiji Ichimura’s 10-seat sushi counter and at the other, the dining room for l’abeille. Eventually, l’abeille à côté will also encompass an additional 28 outdoor seats on the terrace, too.
“It’s something for everyone to experience, and l’abeille à côté is strategically placed in the middle as a before or after dinner spot, or the spot you want to go for dinner,” explains Saito.
The look and feel of l’abeille à côté mirrors that of l’abeille, albeit with some slight differences — and that’s on purpose, says interior designer Marta Carvalho, who designed both restaurant spaces. “It’s a continuation of the design vocabulary of l’abeille — it had to be — because you still have to feel like you’re a part of l’abeille. It’s a continuation with a twist that’s a little bit more playful,” says Carvalho.
It’s elegant and intimate, just like l’abeille, but whereas l’abeille has light-colored walls and darker stone accents, l’abeille à côté adopts the opposite, with darker, moodier walls and brighter quartzite that’s white with black and gray veining. The stone is a prominent feature of l’abeille à côté’s open kitchen, which is visible from any seat in the dining room, and of the service bar. Otherwise, you’ll find the same chairs, light fixtures, and textures as you would in l’abeille.
Another reason for the design continuity? L’abeille à côté will serve a dual purpose as a private dining room, too, for smaller groups of 15 to 20 diners, or as an extension of any event buyouts for l’abeille, on a limited basis.
3. Let’s talk about the food.
While you could classify chef Mitsunobu Nagae’s cooking at l’abeille as decidedly French with Japanese influences — he did work with Joël Robuchon after all — it’s hard to pinpoint an exact type of cuisine that defines l’abeille à côté. It’s not entirely French or Japanese, per se, but it is personal.
Some standouts include grilled eggplant with Serrano ham ($24), crispy takoyaki fritters ($16), Kyung’s fried chicken ($28), a Wagyu beef teriyaki burger ($34), and a soufflé cheesecake with crème fraiche and housemade jam ($18).
“The menu has been structured without any limitations,” Nagae says in Japanese, with Saito translating. “It’s more playful and there’s a lot of Japanese influence, like crispy takoyaki fritters and teriyaki burgers that I loved to eat growing up in Osaka. There’s Korean influence from executive sous chef Kyung Lee in his fried chicken. We didn’t want to limit ourselves.”
The prices are also considerably lower than what you’ll find at l’abeille. Everything at l’abeille à côté is served à la carte, with appetizers ranging from $12 to $28, mains from $24 to $46 (not including a $115 American Wagyu ribeye for two), sides for $14 each, and desserts from $8 to $18. At l’abeille, by contrast, tasting menus range in price from $165 to $225 per person, and à la carte dishes (served only at the bar) cost anywhere from $28 to $125, excluding caviar service.
Co-owner Saito likens the relationship between the two restaurants to that between fashion brands Prada and Miu Miu. “Prada is the high-end brand, but when the designer wants a more playful brand to express herself more casually and in a more approachable way, she has Miu Miu,” he says. “L’abeille à côté is our Miu Miu.”
4. One of their neighbors designed the uniforms.
When Saito says he and the team wanted this to be a place for their neighbors, he means it. So much so that he asked his neighbor, Alex Mill designer and founder Alex Drexler, to supply the staff uniforms for l’abeille à côté. Expect to see the servers here outfitted in Alex Mill’s effortless and easygoing jumpsuits, linen shirts, and pants. “[The clothes] are casual but elegant,” says Saito, “and it puts you more at ease and embraces the neighborhood, and I love that we’re working with someone who works in the neighborhood.”
5. Finally, it’s not a wine bar …
… But the drink list at l’abeille à côté is very wine focused. The wine list is tight, with 30 different selections from around the world, encompassing 10 reds, 10 whites, and 10 sparkling wines, with a total of nine by-the glass options. You could sip on a Debina from Greece or a Zweigelt from Austria just as easily as you might have a classic Albariño from Spain or a Syrah from South Africa.
And while there are signature cocktails offered over at l’abeille, l’abeille à côté is sticking to classic cocktails like martinis, Negronis, and Manhattans.
Whether you decide to stop by l’abeille à côté for a drink or a full meal, Saito hopes the new restaurant will become a spot that New Yorkers return to again and again. “We want these dishes and drinks to be absolutely perfect and tasty, and we want people to come back and have another bit of the fried chicken of the burger,” he says. “It’s fun and casual, and still elevated, but the food is always the center of it, and it’s at the same level as what you find at l’abeille.”
L’abeille à côté is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 9:30 p.m.