At age 16, after working for a summer at a farm-to-table restaurant in France (a literal one, located on an actual farm) David Malbequi fell in love with cooking and decided to forgo college for culinary school. Decades later, after working in kitchens across France, Switzerland and most recently New York City, the French native has staked out a little place of his own. Located in the space that was formerly Northern Italian restaurant Paprika, David’s Café was cozy and inviting this past Friday evening during its soft opening. David’s will be serving its regular dinner menu of American-influenced French classics like “The Burger Queen Deluxe” starting tomorrow night.
David’s trio of owners know a little something about the world of East Village hospitality; Chef Malbequi worked in the kitchens of midtown haunts Daniel and BLT Market before opening Prima, now closed, with David’s co-owner Hamid Rashidzada, who also owned Summit Bar in Alphabet City with bartender Greg Seider, who he brought in to develop David’s drink menu. The third partner, Daniel Rivera, owns the The Crooked Tree right next door. All of them reside in the East Village.
The menu is full of playful combinations. “It’s French twisted my way,” Malberqui said. The chicken wings are cold smoked before they’re cooked a la plancha and served with ginger ketchup sauce, fried shallots and scallions. The “French hot dog” is wrapped in a croissant with 11 Condiment mustard, and the side order of mac and cheese is made with ramen noodles; the fish and chips are fried in a batter made with Bronx rye pale ale.
“It’s a French technique,” Rashidzada said of Malbequi’s seasonal cooking, “but he’s executing it with American products that are approachable.” The opening hours are also French-inspired: “We want it to be open all day, like a normal café if you go to Paris,” Malbequi said. Weekend brunch is soon to come, with lunch and breakfast not far behind.
Having only a beer and wine license, they got creative with the cocktails by mixing botanicals, fortified wines and liqueurs. The bartender Friday night recommended the St. Mark’s, a mixture of aperitif wine Cocchi Americano, byrrh, bell pepper, jalapeño, lemon juice and agave.
David’s Café, 110 Saint Marks, between Avenue A and 1st Avenue. Serving dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday with doors closing an hour after dinner ends. Menu below.