One feature that so many new restaurants lack is a hint of romance: twinkling candles, subdued lighting, dark wooden furnishings, a mellow vibe.
Nicholas J. Cassidy and Hector Torres have solved it with Sauté, their BYOB, which opened Tuesday in Queen Village (775 S. Front St., 215-271-9300) after eight months of intense construction at what was La Creole. As in, the only way in and out of the basement was through a trapdoor behind the bar; they built a staircase and sealed the door.
Torres, who opened Roy's and worked in the front of the house at SoleFood at the Loews, runs the dining room. The Le Cordon Bleu-educated Cassidy, last at Alma de Cuba, cooks a style that's French-influenced American. (Among apps are escargot and charcuterie, and there's a hamachi ceviche on there seemingly as a tip to Douglas Rodriguez.)
A few highlights: a baked Brie in puff pastry, filled with candied almonds and served with toast points -- more than enough for two for $12; a mound of tuna tartare, $10, with ginger, seaweed salad and sesame seeds and served with a little scoop of orange/cinnamon sorbet; duck breast, the most expensive item at $24, served with beet gnocchi and pancetta; beef short rib, $18, with a refreshing celery root puree (instead of the cliche mashed potatoes) and a side salad of truffled pea greens studded with grapes and blue cheese; and seared scallops, $22.50, served over a barley cassoulet (bacon, braised cabbage and cherry). Two apps, two entrees, $66 plus tip.