558 Broome St (@ Varick Street) | NYC | 212-226-4399
Subway 1 (Canal Street)
A few weeks ago I tried to go to Ivo & Lulu but they were a little slow to open so I had to postpone my visit. Some friend and I had our hearts set on going to L'Ecole at the French Culinary Institute but we couldn't get a reservation so I suggested Ivo & Lulu (our reservations at L'Ecole is in 2 weeks).
We dashed to Ivo & Lulu after seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Times Square and snagged one of 3 remaining tables. It was actually a table for 2, but we squeezed in. If we had wanted to wait for a larger space, it would have been at least 45 minutes. We were starving so we took the available small table. Shortly after we sat the balance of the tables filled up and people waited outside.
[what do you call this neighborhood?]
Ivo & Lulu, this is a strange little place in strange little neighborhood right near the Holland Tunnel. It's is a very casual little restaurant which served French Caribbean food at very reasonable prices to people who seem to be "in the know". Why else would anyone come into this neighborhood except to enter the tunnel on the way to Jersey? From what I remember the walls are painted in a yellowish ochre color, table have bright plaid table cloths and the walls are trimmed with a framed print here and there. I found the restaurant to be a little dimly lit, so bring your glasses if you have trouble reading menus! Ivo & Lulu also have the smallest shoebox kitchen I ever saw. I complain about my 10'x12' space and can't seem to make a meal for myself with out tripping over my own feet. How do these guys do it with half the space?
The menu at Ivo & Lulu is very inspirational. At first glance it seems to have a lot of French style classics. Once you read further, you'll see that they are kicked up with Caribbean spices and fruits. Besides for the flavorings, the best part about the menu is the prices. Starters run around $7 and main courses ate in the $15 range. You can't beat that!
[ready to eat?]
For out starters we ordered a baked apple stuffed with Camembert cheese, a warm pheasant pate with truffle oil & rum in an brie crust and a gratin dauphinois. I think the best one of the three was the pheasant pate. The dish was spiced pheasant meat baked in a small casserole topped cheese and a crust. We ate it on french bread although you could have ate it alone. The potato dauphinois was good but didn't earn any star rating from me. I thought it was a bit soupy, but we enjoyed it anyway! The baked apple with Camembert was interesting. The apple was soft and sweet with gooey Camembert in the center. It was dusted with powdered sugar but seemed more like a dessert than a starter.
The main courses were tonight's star. I ordered duck breast and I don't remember the exact price but all the main courses were around $15. That's a great price for duck breast! Ivo & Lulu's also used free range poultry so it make the price even better. My duck breast was served in a Caribbean spiced citrus sauce that was really delicious. It had a rich flavor of allspice and nutmeg. The duck breast was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of fat and skin. It was very rich and tender. The duck breast was served with a side of lyonnaise type potato which was good but a bit salty.
My friends ordered the broiled chicken breast and the duck leg confit. The confit was prepared in the typical French style but served with a spicy mango jerk sauce that was sweet and spicy. It was served with some mixed mesclun greens. The chicken was sliced thin, more tender and juicy than most. It had a light, creamy papaya sauce drizzled on the plate, but not overwhelming, the chicken wasn't swimming in it. The chicken had been marinated in something smoky and salty. Gave it the taste of bacon. Very flavorful. In addition, there were a few other interesting main courses such as rabbit sausages and wild boar sausage soaked in blueberry sauce.
[byob and dessert]
One of my favorite parts of Ivo & Lulu is that it is the BYOB. There is no corkage fee and no wine glasses. This is rustic, you drink your wine out of a regular water glass. No big deal. We really enjoyed our bottle of Pagor California Tempranillo. This wine has hints of chocolate and cherries. You don't often find a California Tempranillo. The grapes come from 30 year old vines in Madera County in the Sierra Foothills.
Dessert at Ivo & Lulu was nothing special. We got a chocolate gateau and an apple tart. The apple tart was sort of like an apple crumble layered with cinnamon and crumbs. It was moist and had a sweet apple flavor. The chocolate "gateau" was a dry piece of cake dusted with powdered sugar. The word "gateau" was a little fancy for chocolate cake that tasted like it was made from Madame Betty Crocker.
[hunting for dessert]
After eating the unsatisfying desserts, we decided we would go somewhere else for dessert and set out to look for a place with profiteroles, which I always crave. We thought we would try L'Express on Park Avenue South. It was a nice night and we decided to walk. We never did reached L'Express but when we walked past Otto in The Village my friend talked us into go in to try their "olive oil gelato".
click to enlarge
Olive oil gelato, that's odd. Adding oil to a fatty product like gelato seems a bit decadent, doesn't it? Well, it was actually quite thick and rich, maybe the thickest gelato I ever had. The gelato was drizzled with a bit of olive oil and had a light floral flavor. The cream and oil coated your mouth and left a smooth aftertaste. I think it was about 8 bucks for a small dish. That has to be the richest and most expensive scoop of gelato I ever ate. We didn't eat in the restaurant, we just perched at a table in the bar area.
I was still craving profiteroles but we ended our search because after the gelato we were pretty full. Maybe next week...
[in my opinion...]
Ivo & Lulu is a good find, the prices are right, it's informal and the food is excellent. Don't expect much for atmosphere or neighborhood, it's all about the food and the BYOB! Service is polite and friendly but not accommodating, they really won't mush over you. I recommend that you arrive early or else you can expect a 45 minute wait. Ivo & Lulu does not take reservations. I give them 4 hearts based on food only, excluding the desserts, atmosphere and service.
There are a number of reviews for Ivo & Lulu online, if you do a web search you will get a few. Be sure to search as "Ivo & Lulu" not "Ivo and Lulu".