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Bistro Benoit


docsconz
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The menu definitely looks like classic French bistro fare - not too dumbed down, and it can be seen here.

It appears to be the lunch menu, fairly limited, compared to a place like Balthazar, but if they're turning out truly remarkable product, time will tell how well New Yorkers will take to it. I like that they're doing a 3-course prix fix for lunch at $28. 

And I'm interested in seeing the dinner menu as well.

I just viewed the Balthazar lunch menu: It looks remarkably similar to the menu at Benoit. Oh, what would be considered exciting food at a "traditional French/Parisien Bistro"?

I had brunch at Benoit on Sunday. I thought the food, including a nice charcuterie and a simple Grilled Salmon with a bernaise sauce was well executed. The service, as befits a new restaurant, needed some work. The room is a replica of the restaurant in Paris. The best part of the menu was the return of the great Baba to new york!!

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the thing is, I have nothing against a simple grilled salmon in bernaise.

I just have no interest in going to midtown for it. If it's only a bit better than Balthazar, what's the point in traveling for it? Balthazar (as much as I enjoy it), isn't a destination restaurant either.

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Nathan, I don't know how to put this, but I seriously doubt, in opening a restaurant, that anybody's primary question is, "is Nathan (or Sneakeater for that matter) going to travel to this?"

depending upon the location and pricepoint, that's precisely what they sometimes do consider (using our names in the generic sense).

Ducasse has failed here twice already...and Adour isn't exactly full...though it does seem to be doing a fair amount of hotel business.

there are plenty of restaurants in midtown with similar menus. I'm sure Benoit will execute better than them. he might do just fine on tourist and business traffic. but that would be a sad reflection on the Ducasse name.

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Balthazar (as much as I enjoy it), isn't a destination restaurant either.

Except...it is. I can assure you it's not just "neighborhood folk" that make Balthazar so tough to get into.

well, Balthazar is sui generis.

it somehow combines tourists, B&T, uptowners and locals into one big happy family.

but true, it is a destination restaurant for many people.

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Nathan, I don't know how to put this, but I seriously doubt, in opening a restaurant, that anybody's primary question is, "is Nathan (or Sneakeater for that matter) going to travel to this?"

depending upon the location and pricepoint, that's precisely what they sometimes do consider (using our names in the generic sense).

Ducasse has failed here twice already...and Adour isn't exactly full...though it does seem to be doing a fair amount of hotel business.

there are plenty of restaurants in midtown with similar menus. I'm sure Benoit will execute better than them. he might do just fine on tourist and business traffic. but that would be a sad reflection on the Ducasse name.

I ate at Adour twice last weekend, and despite both my reservations being at 5.30pm the restaurant was FULL. Where are all the "high quality" french bistros in midtown manhattan that you talk about? Can you name some?

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1. no one said anything about "high quality" French bistros in midtown.

2. what's sad about Adour is that it looks to be full at 5:30 and not at 9....now maybe the demographic that dines at early bird hours spends so much money that it doesn't matter...

3. restaurants in NY are supposed to be full on the weekend. it's being full on Tuesday night that's hard.

4. he's failed twice in NY before, I'm not giving him the benefit of the doubt. with that said, being in the St. Regis is a bit of a safety net.

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the thing is, midtown already has a crapload of restaurants that look like Balthazar (they usually don't have the same level of detail but....)

Which restaurants in midtown look like Balthazar?

Second, I think the "perceived failure" at ADNY was as much a reflection of new york city tastes as it is was a failure in food or service or concept. In fact, as I have said on this board, under the direction of Tony Esnault the food at ADNY was perhaps the best executed in the city.

Third, many three and four star restaurants are not full on Tuesday evenings, especially recently.

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I assume Nathan is talking about the leftover old school French places in the West 40s and low 50s. Forty, fifty, and more years ago, that area was a sort of French ghetto (reportedly, these places opened to serve French sailors arriving at the piers). The comparitively few remaining ones are survivors. They're no longer very good (if they ever were), and they're dropping like flies.

They're no more competition for Benoit than they were competition for Brasserie LCB.

There are also places like the one at 53rd (I think it is) and 7th. Sort of cookie cutter bistro/brasseries for the tourist trade with no culinary ambitions at all. They're not even part of the dining scene, as far as I'm concerned.

I guess obligatory mention ought to be made of the bistro in the Parker Meridien. It was originally affiliated with Raoul's, but no longer is. I think the point to make about it is that people were genuinely rather excited to have a place like that in Midtown when it first opened -- although it has since deteriorated into complete nondescriptness.

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Montparnasse, Papillon, Cafe Joul, Deux Amis, Rue 57, Tout Va Bien, Le Marais, Pigalle, Chez Napoleon, Le Marais, Triomphe....and quite a few more. many of which are on the east side. just because we don't go to them doesn't mean they don't exist. a little stroll will easily run across examples.

I agree that Ducasse didn't get NYC tastes. that was precisely my point up the thread.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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Nathan, I don't know how to put this, but I seriously doubt, in opening a restaurant, that anybody's primary question is, "is Nathan (or Sneakeater for that matter) going to travel to this?"

depending upon the location and pricepoint, that's precisely what they sometimes do consider (using our names in the generic sense).

I agree that some restaurants are built for "people like Nathan" (in the generic sense).
he might do just fine on tourist and business traffic.  but that would be a sad reflection on the Ducasse name.

But I disagree that the only types of patrons are tourists, business, and "people like Nathan."
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indeed, the cookie-cutter tourist ones is exactly what I'm talking about. there's a bunch of them. and, yes, I think they're very relevant to a discussion of a Ducasse bistro in midtown NY.

something slightly different are the small, very expensive Eurotrash places on the midtown east/UES border....

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indeed, the cookie-cutter tourist ones is exactly what I'm talking about.  there's a bunch of them.  and, yes, I think they're very relevant to a discussion of a Ducasse bistro in midtown NY.

Well...a Ducasse restaurant, no matter what he is serving, is a tourist place practically by definition, especially if it gets a Michelin star, but probably even without it.
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I'm worried that this will simply be an analogue to Bobby Flay's Bar Americaine

It very well could be, but that isn't tantamount to failure: Bar American is still in business.

and doing very well I would imagine. but it's not taken seriously. that would be a kind of sad fate for Ducasse in NY don't you think?

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I'm worried that this will simply be an analogue to Bobby Flay's Bar Americaine

It very well could be, but that isn't tantamount to failure: Bar American is still in business.

and doing very well I would imagine. but it's not taken seriously. that would be a kind of sad fate for Ducasse in NY don't you think?

Yeah, I do agree with you. It would be sad if Benoit is the French equivalent of Mama Leone's. However, when Ducasse gave New York what he does best, the restaurant wasn't successful.
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The objections based on lack of inventiveness seem off base. It's supposed to be a classic bistro-brasserie-type restaurant. For most of the 20th Century, accomplishment in cuisine was defined as faithful execution of the classics. That has changed to some extent, but it's still the standard if you're opening a restaurant with a specific classical theme.

In addition, Benoit doesn't define the Ducasse brand. It is, rather, one facet of the Ducasse brand: the facet that is supposed to be a classic bistro-brasserie-type restaurant. So the appropriate standard is: does Ducasse do this type of restaurant better than the competition, therefore justifying its higher prices?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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in addition to the NY bistro standards, the Benoit in Paris carries such classic dishes as:

partridge stew with chestnuts and salsify

veloute of cepes and crayfish

John Dory with mustard sauce

langoustine bisque

calf's tongue with foie

tete de veau

Bresse poulet

on its menu. so far, I don't see much evidence of this for Benoit NY. hopefully they will be there.

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If they can somehow do Bresse poulet, they will be the coolest thing ever.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Well, they didn't do it at the Essex House so they won't likely do it at Benoit. At the Essex House they used the excellent blue-foot chickens as an alternative. There are a lot of good chickens available in the US, including some that are -- as I understand it -- genetically identical to Bresse chickens. But I believe the headline chicken dish at Benoit is roast chicken and frites in the style of L'Amis Louis. In my experience the Bresse chickens don't show their superiority in that sort of preparation. You need to do the Georges Blanc fricassee. That's when it might be theoretically worth schlepping an AOC chicken over from France.

To get back to the creativity point, Benoit was a restaurant long before Ducasse took it over -- it opened around the turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is). Ducasse's mission at Benoit has not been to create new dishes. It has been to revive the classics of the past century. He contributes management, Ducasse-trained cooks, and technical expertise. As for the dishes from the Paris branch that Nathan listed, I think some of those are probably seasonal specials and I imagine the New York restaurant will play around with all sorts of specials and stick with whatever sells.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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