Come with Me to Paris
On a bitter cold day in New York—thunder-grey skies, wind whistling in our ears, 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, which had likewise been owned by Mr. Ducasse, and it features many of the old reliable standards of French cooking.
Simply stepping inside and catching sight of the dining room with its red leather banquettes, blonde oak-wood panels, chrome-yellow walls, gorgeous mirrors and vintage prints, was as welcoming as a crackling fire in a hearth.
This had been the last home of the venerable La Côte Basque, a restaurant fabled for its cuisine and for its lovely seaside murals. But after a successful 45-year run, it closed it doors. When I questioned the waiter what had happened to the murals, I was told that a number of em have been relocated to one of the private upstairs dining rooms. In the front room, where we once dined on escargot and Dover sole, there is a handsome Art Deco-style bar with black and white striped walls, checkered floors, and an antique French bakery ceiling. It's the sort of space where a woman could feel comfortable dining solo at the bar for lunch or dinner. As does the young woman reading the menu in the photo below.
When it came time to order, my companion went with moules et frites, the mussels arriving table-side in a handsome black pot, whereas I ordered the bone-tender roast duck leg served with root vegetables and glazed with a translucent sauce. An aficionado of mussels, the traveling gourmet sitting across from me 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 with other matters in the dining room. Ah-ha! There’s our waiter below.
Even before we leave, my companion is talking about a return visit. The next 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 classic dish that 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. Yes, we’ll be back.
And there it 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 share this post and take a friend to Paris? Merci beaucoup… Jusqu’à la semaine prochaine.