245 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10022
(646) 669-7879

When Speeds moved back to New York from Syracuse, she asked herself one thing. "Where can I live that has high rent and a dramatically high number of homeless people?" Then it hit her. Northern Chelsea. As usual, Speeds didn't want to dine too far from her apartment building, so we decided on OCabanon, a French wine bar just around the corner from her place on 29th Street. It was a Thursday night and while other spots that I called were telling me that we'd likely be waiting 45 minutes or more, OCabanon was far from full. Indeed, it was almost like this was the go-to spot for people who enjoy dining alone.

We walked in and were led to the far rear of the restaurant, where we were the first diners of the evening. First, I'm going to get this out of the way. I liked OCabanon, by and large. It was sorta cozy, it wasn't loud (actually, it was too quiet), and it isn't terribly expensive. It's just not better than that. It's kind of forgettable. The waiter was a really nice, smiling guy, but for a wine bar waiter, he seemed not to know much about wine. The food was good, but not better than good, and there was no energy to the place.

For her starter, Speeds chose the Cheese Plate, a chef's selection of five cheeses. It was good and you get a fair amount for the money, along with a sliced apple and some grapes, but the grapes were on their way out, and although we were told what cheeses would be arriving, the server never explained which cheese was which when they finally arrived. Furthermore, they were inartfully presented on the slate, and a little fig jam would have gone a long way. When I go to a French restaurant, it's virtually impossible for me to pass up ordering Escargot, so I didn't. OCabanon's traditional bistro style escargot could have used a little more garlic or some MSG or something. Don't get me wrong. I fully recognize that escargot merely exists so that I can have an excuse to dip my baguette in garlic butter, but even so, these didn't stand out from other garlic butter delivery proxies I've had in the past. They lacked oomph.

Speeds chose the wild mushroom Risotto for her entree. This was the best dish of the night and, if you go, you should get this. It was rich and heavy and cheesy and she couldn't finish it even with my help. My only complaint was that the chef sliced the leek the long way, instead of the short way. As someone who makes risotto at home, I have fallen into the same trap. The result is pulling out these long irritating leek strings when you dig your fork in. Very annoying. I ordered the Daube Provencale, a beef-in-red-wine stew, served with a small side salad and truffle mashed potatoes. I liked it a lot, though the mashed potatoes with a bit too dense. The stew is heavy. It may look like you get a small amount, but you aren't finishing it.

For dessert, Speeds and I split the Creme Brulee, another French classic. It was good. I'd get it again. In the end, I can recommend OCabanon if you're in the area and want a solid meal that won't break the bank. It's a cool place to chill out, have a few drinks, and not be bothered for a while. But it's not innovative and, tomorrow, you'll have forgotten that you ate there.

Like I said, OCabanon isn't bad, but it didn't provide much in the way of memorableness. I think that if I was a local, I'd stop by with friends on Sundays for their half-off bottles and nosh on their sliders while BSing for a spell. But if you're wondering if it's worth a trip out of your way, I'd have to go with no.

A bottle of wine, two appetizers, two entrees, a dessert, and a coffee, plus tax and tip cost us about $150.

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