Le Bilboquet: A French Toy

Passing a new restaurant at 20 East 60th Street, between Madison and Park, I could not help but notice the handsome forest green awnings, the planters filled with hot pink azalea, the wicker chairs so reminiscent of Paris. But what's the name? With no signage in view, I ventured in.

When an attractive hostess in a pencil-slim black sheath came over to greet me, I popped the question, asking the name of the restaurant.

"Le Bilboquet," she answered.

"Le Bilboquet? What does it mean, le Bilboquet? Can you translate it for me?"

"A bilboquet is a toy, a French toy," she said.

A toy? At which I looked around at the posh digs, the starchy white table linens, a stunning floral arrangement and a coffee-table book on the bar, all the while thinking: This is one expensive French toy!  

Once home, I googled 'bilboquet,' to learn that it’s a small wooden cup on a spiked wooden stick, one that's attached to a ball on a string. The idea is you toss the ball into the air and catch it in the cup. Good for eye-hand coordination, particularly good for children. The toy, that is, not the restaurant. The restaurant is a grown-up affair.

Checking out Le Bilboquet in Zagat 2016 I found the following: "One does not go for the food alone to this 'see-and-be-seen' UES French bistro that functions as a clubhouse for 'power' types like 'Euros locals' and 'Park Avenue dowagers.'" The mix of personalities described in the guide made it hard to resist; I made a reservation.

With a 7:30 pm reservation on a Saturday night, we found the place a-buzz, the crowd animated, and the staff most accommodating. The hostess gave us what was allegedly her favorite table, a cozy corner table for two. But before we can be seated in this "see-and-be-seen" place, we're spotted by our lovely neighbors who are dining early, before going on to 59East59 to see Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.

Once seated, I could see why the table was a favorite, as it offered an excellent view of the dining room.


Which is when we met our most agreeable waiter, Dakor.

"Is that a French accent?" I inquired.

"It's European-ish," he said. "From old Yugoslavia."

Feeling ourselves to be in good hands, we relaxed, enjoyed the libations and ordered a mixed endive salad with Roquefort as a starter. If you should choose to do the same, the garden-fresh salad is more than enough for two to share.

After which my companion went with the moules marinieres, those tiny tempting little morsels he finds hard to resist when on the menu—with crispy pommes frites, of course. If I was tempted by Le Bilboquet's signature dish, a Cajun chicken that some claim to be the best chicken in all of New York City, I chose a filet de boeuf, which when it arrived was done to medium-rare perfection. 

The desserts going by looked too good to pass up, although we did. That evening we were content to kick back and enjoy the last of the wine, the heady aroma of the bitter-dark espresso, and the visual pleasures of the evening. Le Bilboquet is that kind of place, a place to have a wonderful meal, to drink a little wine, and to thoroughly enjoy yourself. My recommendation? By all means, go! 

À la semaine prochaine... May the week be kind to you. Once again, thanks for stopping by, and I'll have the coffee ready next Sunday morning...