The last we heard from Fran Derby, he had hit the ejection-seat button from his position as Sam Mason’s co-pilot at Tailor. Now he's manning the stove at East Village wine bar Solex, where he has also upgraded the menu. Solex's old selection was marked by an unappetizing combination of daintiness and heaviness (a tiny ham-and-cheese sandwich with ham, béchamel, Gruyère, and two quail eggs; gruyere-soaked pigs in a blanket, and other such midget gut-bombs). Now it will serve some of the most sophisticated (but cheap) food in the East Village: a cold-smoked scallop carpaccio with radishes for $10, Basque-style deviled eggs with white-anchovy crisps and Bayonne ham for $3 apiece, and even a cauliflower pannacotta with a quail-egg yolk in the middle. (Some of the older items are still on the menu, but not for long.) Derby’s even growing his own herbs out back. “I’ve been here just over two weeks,” he says. “It’s just me in the kitchen, pretty much. I take the orders, make the food, scrub down the kitchen at the end of the night. I’m having a blast.”
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