Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Les Halles, Downtown, New York

One of the best gifts I received for Christmas was one of Anthony Bourdain's books. I have already read Kitchen Confidential, and I am really enjoying Bourdain's other book.

So, I was very pleased that our dear friend, Dr. C, invited all four of us to Les Halles (downtown) when we went up to New York. As some readers may know, Bourdain was chef at the now famous chain of Les Halles restaurants.

First impressions are good. The decor really does look like a real French brasserie -- lots of wood, marble-topped surfaces, and a bar wih beer taps. Like waiters in France, the people who serve at the tables look as though they know how to cook and sport immaculate white aprons that prove that they don't.

The menu is pretty short -- the food is on the front, and the wine is on the back. (I approve of short menus!) The food is pretty much standard brasserie fare -- steak frites, confit de canard, vol au vent, coq au vin, and so on.

I started with pan-seared foie gras ($12.50) with caramelised apples. It was excellent except that the toast on which it sat had lost all of its crispiness and was soggy. Then, I had the onglet (hanger steak) with the frites ($17.50). The steak was great, and the fries really are memorable. Les Halles is famous for its frites. Fried in peanut oil, they really are something special -- crispy on the outside, but you can taste that it is a real potato as you bite into the middle. Dessert was profiteroles ($6.00) -- I found the sauce floury and the choux pastry almost rubbery. They were not all that good. The better choice was probably Dr. C's choice, the creme brulee, which was pronounced outstanding.

Other dishes include hamburgers ($12.50), Confit de Canard with truffle sauteed potatoes ($14.50), steak tartare with frites ($14.00), and a good selection of moules frites ($14.50) with a variety of sauces.

Dr. C had the Coq au vin, and pronounced it excellent. Iran had the french onion soup ($5.50), which looked passable.

There is a good and short wine list with a nice showing of Bordeaux reds (my first love). We had a Chateau Meyney (1997) -- an off year but an excellent wine. I was just a little bit disappointed with it. It was very good, but did not compare with the infinitely better 1995 that we drank two days earlier.

In summary, it was a good meal -- I would recommend it if you are staying in the area, but I would not go out of my way for this restaurant.

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