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Brigitte Bistro
June 24, 2024

A master chef brings his skills to Red Hook
By Michelle Madden

Brigitte Bistro is cozy without being cramped, with crystal chandeliers dripping with teardrop pendants that dominate the decor. An inviting bar welcomes you. The open kitchen is dimly lit, with just enough sound and flashes of fire to assure you that your meal is coming. Presiding over the eight-burner stove is chef Randi Jimenez, who seems to have it under control. He’s imposing, solidly built, and highly accomplished. 

In 2021, restaurateur Alain Urbini, then principal owner of Brigitte, hired Jimenez, who had been executive chef at New Amsterdam in Rhinebeck. In September, Jimenez became the majority owner and Urbini stepped aside, while maintaining partial ownership. 

Jimenez’s culinary life is testament to his devotion to French tradition and technique. He acquired his skills methodically, making his way through top restaurants in Manhattan: Fleur de Sel, Le Bernardin, Lespinasse, and Daniel (as in Daniel Boulud). He is still close with his former boss, the celebrated chef Christian Delouvrier from Lespinasse. “If I’m ever stuck on a dish, I call Chef Christian.” 

The chef’s mastery is evident not just in the flavors but in the presentation, which is artistic yet restrained. The côte de boeuf au poivre is served in small segments forming a neat row, with a creamy pepper-and-cognac sauce. The beef is tender and flavorful. The soupe à l’oignon has a solid top of melted cheese that flows over the sides of the small tureen. It is so substantial that it could hold its own as a main course. The loup de mer (branzino) sits on a romesco sauce, which not only looks painterly but complements the olive-and-caper sauce drizzled around the plate’s outer banks. The salade du marche (with endive and pecans) delivers greater pleasure than the name would suggest, with a perfectly balanced lemony dressing, and just a touch of sweetness. The blanc de poulet rôti au jus (roasted chicken) is light and full of flavor. It lies on a bed of polenta; hiding underneath are lightly sauteed oyster mushrooms and asparagus, which add a delightful pop of color.  

The menu changes seasonally, though staples such as the escargots, pâté and boeuf au poivre have year-round privileges. 

The adherence to strict French convention with the meal gets a little relaxed with the bread, but that’s OK when the substitution is this good: Sitting in for traditional baguette is homemade focaccia. It comes out toasted, and it’s hard to hold back.

When you’re done, after you’ve decided you could not eat a single thing more, eat one more thing. You will not regret the crêpe aux pommes. It’s a bit more like a pancake  than a crêpe; but the apples are slightly caramelized, and when they meet the cool vanilla ice cream, it’s sheer bliss. 

Jimenez’s decades spent mastering the art of French cooking are on display in every dish he lovingly dispenses from the kitchen. Should you, however, be in the mood for a slight culinary deviation, there is Burgers & Beer on Tuesdays and Pasta on Thursdays.––