Le Turtle is a modern French restaurant in the Lower East Side (emphasis on the “modern”). Actually, the best words to describe Le Turtle would be eclectic and quirky.
Le Turtle opened in December 2015 as the joint venture between the owners of Freemans and The Smile. Whereas the two establishments are known for their low-key, rustic and cozy atmosphere, Le Turtle is like their rebellious younger sibling crying for attention:
– First, the decor: the 60-seat restaurant space has a distinctive contemporary design, with eccentric furnishings like neon lights, leather banquettes, gold and silver fixtures, but also the classic white brick walls and marble tables. The design is undeniably unique, but lacks homogeneity and seems like an exaggerated attempt to look cool.
– The trendy staff is dressed in oversized grayish-green jumpsuits. At first glance, it looks like an auto-mechanic attire, but then I thought they’re probably supposed to look like turtles (duh!) Wrong – when asked about the uniform, “just because it’s cool” was their answer. Okkk…
– I won’t be one to complain about the French Hip-Hop music in the background (MC Solaar is such a poet ♥) but I can imagine some guests find it odd.
– The restaurant’s labyrinth website wins the weirdo prize. Try to find the menu online, you’ll just be thinking “what the…” ❓
All this quirkiness can easily make one overlook the most important part about Le Turtle: Le food. The contemporary French cuisine is where it excels. No turtle served here FYI 😆 . The menu prominently features vegetables, along with light fish and heartier meat options. All dishes are tasty and beautifully plated, but a few stand out: the Beef Carpaccio (boring, I know, but this one is out of this world), the Heirloom Tomatoes, the Crudo, the Green Vegetables…
Along with the occasional celebrity sighting, the star of the show though is the chicken. The $64 Sasso Chicken for two has been brined for 42 hours, dried for 3 days, steam-cooked, and roasted at 3 different temperatures to crisp the skin and render the fat. To get you even more excited, the full bird is presented to the table on a platter of burning hay, before taking it back to the kitchen for carving.
Order the chicken as soon as you get there, they sometimes run out
The wine list has a great selection of exclusively-French bottles overseen by the former Semilla sommelier, with a focus on natural wines. Their in-house cocktails are also a great way to start the meal.
Bookings are made via Reserve and are pretty easy to come by despite the trendiness. The coolest seats are in the mirrored VIP booth that sits a foot off the floor near the bar, although most of the time reserved for the owners… Make a special request in your reservation, you might get lucky and exceptionally get seated there.
Their WC has the most amazing “Byredo Suede” soap – sold online for… $60 😕
Le Turtle is a bit all over the place, but it works. Come here for the delicious food, on a dinner-date or between a small group of friends to share as many plates as possible.
Open daily for dinner 6pm-11pm