On a bitter cold day in New York—thunder-grey skies, snow threatening—we headed for Benoit on West 55th Street. When so many bistros in New York are pale versions of those in Paris, such is not the case with the charming Benoit, owned by Alain Ducasse. Indeed, this Benoit is a reincarnation of the century-old Benoit in Paris, likewise owned by Mr Ducasse, and featuring many of the old reliable standards of French cooking.
Simply stepping inside and catching sight of the dining room with the red leather banquettes, blonde oak wood panels and chrome-yellow walls, the over-sized mirrors and vintage prints, felt as welcoming as a crackling fire in the hearth on a wintry day.
This had been the last home of the venerable La Cote Basque, a restaurant fabled for its cuisine and lovely seaside murals, one that had a successful forty-five year run. When I questioned what happened to the murals, I was told that a number have been relocated to one of the private upstairs dining rooms.
In the same space where we once dined on escargot and Dover sole, there is an Art Deco-style bar with black and white striped walls, checkered floors, and an antique French bakery ceiling. I adore a place where as a woman you can feel comfortable sitting solo at the bar and ordering lunch or dinner. Don’t you?
hen it came time to order, my companion went with the moules et frites, the mussels arriving table-side in a handsome black pot, whereas I ordered a bone-tender roast duck leg served with root vegetables and glazed with a translucent sauce.
Quite the aficionado of mussels, the gourmet promptly declared them “best ever” which is saying a lot. Indeed, after polishing off the delectable mussels, he nearly did the same, one spoonful at a time, with the irresistible broth. No higher praise.
Philippe Bertineau is the third chef at Benoit, and we certainly hope he stays. So, too the professional wait-staff—French, slim and stiff-backed—who when not serving their patrons do not hover, but busy themselves attending to other matters in the dining room. There’s our waiter.
Even before we leave, my companion is talking about a return visit. I already know that the next time around, I’m going to order a classic roast chicken served with a fresh green salad, as enjoyed by a group of Frenchman at the next table. A dish Zagat describes as a “roast chicken of the gods.” As for my companion, he plans to try the hors d’oeuvres, particularly the crunchy celery remoulade and the sardines marinated in oil. Perfect for a springtime lunch. We’ll be back.
And there is is, a fine ending to a fine meal. Wish you were here. Hope to see you next week. As we say, sharing is caring, so why not sharethis post and take a friend to Paris? Merci beaucoup…jusqu’à la semaine prochaine.