Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ukrainian knows his French

Chef Roman Nikhman has brought
French food to Sheepshead Bay.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini 
By Alex Rush

Chef Roman Nikhman may be Ukrainian, but he’s bringing French food to Sheepshead Bay.

In a neighborhood whose dining scene mainly consists of pizzerias, Chinese take-out joints and bodegas, Le Bouchon, which opened last year at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Avenue X, is a true culinary coup.

“This restaurant is my true passion,” said Nikhman, who lives in the neighborhood. “The food is authentically French, mostly inspired by Marseille and Paris.” 

Nikhman, 31, moved to the U.S. at 10, but ended up in a series of increasingly unsatisfying corporate jobs. The good news? He quit four years ago to become a professional chef and restaurateur, a training process that included a one-year course in Paris. 

He opened Le Bouchon, which means wine cork, so that his hometown could get a taste of haute cuisine. He said his customers are mostly locals looking to splurge on a special occasion. Their experiences are sure to be memorable, as both the food and the décor are unlike those of any other eateries in the area.

”It’s the attention to detail that makes this restaurant unique,” Nikhman said.

Nikhman has an eye for distinct decorating. The exterior of Le Bouchon resembles an upscale tavern, but the interior is like a 19th-century French fortress. It is kitsch meets class, as the mural featuring French newspaper clippings is a lovely touch, but the small musical performance stage and phonograph seem a bit anachronistic.

The right wall of the main dining room is comprised of several shelves lined with fine wines (“bouchon” does mean cork in French), while the chairs in the banquet room look like something out of medieval times.

But no matter what we think of the décor, the dishes are undeniably elegant. Nikhman said he fell in love with French cuisine because of its sauces, so it’s no wonder that there’s a creamy plum reduction atop a salad of sautéed shrimp and fried goat cheese, or a Parmesan cream sauce on the house-made lobster ravioli.

Alcohol graces some of the most creative sauces, such as a mushroom and Bordeaux sauce for steak and a cognac sauce on Nikhman’s chicken breast.

The cognac — and not just any brandy, but Cognac Grande Champagne — also shows up in the excellent tiramisu. 

Entrees are all over $20, but, hey, this is classy French cooking. But bottles of wine start at $25, which is quite reasonable.

Bon appetite!

Le Bouchon [2812 Ocean Ave. at Avenue X in Sheepshead Bay, (718) 769-2222].


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