Raoul’s feels like the quintessential French bistro…for those Parisians who love to rage. Perhaps it was particularly lively because we were there at the kickoff to Pride weekend so while you may not see a mini drag performance on a regular Friday night, this Soho spot is always a vibe – and has been since the 70s.
Much like traditional bistros, the tables are packed together and there was a very tight walk to our table; but once we got to our table tucked into a corner in the back, it felt like we were in a little French oasis. A word to the wise: the bathrooms are located upstairs, beyond a particularly treacherous spiral staircase so be careful. While the most joyful sounds spill into the street, the restaurant feels almost unassuming so you may be surprised to see some celebs deep in conversation at a table or some of the city’s best dressed hanging at the bar. Speaking of the bar, it’s a VIBE. And apparently it’s the only place they’ll serve their burger, which is supposedly spectacular and there are only 12 made per night.
Once at our table, it was drinks first. There was a nice wine list, a pineapple rosé sangria I thought looked particularly good in the summer heat, and Kronenburg. I’m not a beer drinker, but Kronenburg brings back serious memories from my time in France. Along with drinks we got several apps to share around: the crab beignets, roasted carrots with balsamic yogurt sauce, oysters, and an artichoke (not pictured). Everything was good but I found the carrots to be a bit too tangy. Those light and creamy crab beignets were the star of the app round.
For entrées, most people at the table ordered the steak au poivre…and why wouldn’t they? It’s large, in charge, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and a pretty good deal at $37. Steak frites is true bistro fare so it just feels right to get it here. (Though this is a thicker/juicer cut than the steak traditionally served in French bistros, which is just another reason to get it.) I almost ordered it for myself…but then I saw softshell crab on the menu and had to have it. It was served with roasted asparagus, grilled corn, and a fennel purée. It was certainly much smaller than the steak, but after all the apps we shared (and the perfect baguette they brought for the table) I didn’t need anything huge. I’m glad I had a smaller meal because then I wasn’t too full to eat some of the profiteroles we ordered for dessert. I’m not usually a huge profiterole person, but these came (with ice cream) under a stunning sugar dome. The ganache on top of the profiteroles was nice and decadent. It was a fun end to the meal.
It’s been a minute since I’ve had a great bistro meal and even longer since I sat in a restaurant that emanated such positivity and joy. Raoul’s was both of those things, and I can’t wait to go back.