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Bistro Benoit


docsconz
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Can someone explain the fries?  How do they get so high and tangly?  Are they cooked that way or simply mounded just so?

Kind of like the shoestring fries you get with the burger at the spotted pig but cut into 2 inch segments. They're not particularly good but look impressive.

Not really sure how they're getting them into that shape but I'd guess there's a plastic ringmold being used. The middle of the pile tended to be on the soggy side.

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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?

I couldn't agree more. I don't go to a bistro or brasserie (whether in NYC or Paris) for inventive food, any more than I go to Sparks or Peter Lugars for the chicken sandwich. I go to a brasserie for what I'd call classic French comfort food. There are times when I'm in the mood for a Jean-Georges, Daniel or Bouley restaurant, and others when what I'm really craving is a great roast chicken, a steak au poivre or some profiteroles. That's what I think Benoit is all about, and I for one am grateful to have it as a new dining option in NYC.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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I find it rather amusing that people were critiquing the this restaurant before it even opened. Go try it out and see what you think. I did last night, and I loved it.

My date and I had the escargot, duck a l'orange with vegetables, roast lamb (both a chop and what appeared to be tenderloin) with pommes Dauphinoise, a side of Ducasse's signature elbow mac and cheese with ham, and a Baba au Rhum for dessert. All were superb renditions of these classics.

The Baba cake itself was not quite as delicate as I remember from the version at ADNY, but it was still very good.

The service was very friendly, although it was apparent that they were still training the staff and ironing out some minor glitches. The assistant GM, Estelle Lamotte, went out of her way to make us feel welcome, to explain the menu, and to ensure the wine I brought was properly decanted.

It's only a first impression, but I am as excited about Benoit as I've been about any restaurant in NYC for some time. I happen to love French brasserie food, and I think Alain Ducasse is going to set the standard in NYC for this genre. I disagree with some of the other posts here stating that we don't need yet another French Bistro/brasserie in NYC. Sure there are lots of them, but most are Americanized and mediocre. Balthazar and Pastis probably set the current standard, and even they are somewhat of an American take on the brasserie. My favorite is usually L'Absinthe, but the prices there awfully high for brasserie food. Les Halles isn't bad either, but it's so packed and loud that you can't hold a conversation.

Benoit offers classic brasserie fare, in a beautiful room, at a competitive price point (our meal for two without wine was less than $100), with the knowledge and attention to detail of Alain Ducasse behind it. Maybe Ducasse has again misjudged the NYC market, and Benoit will be lost amidst the more generic competition. I hope it succeeds, but selfishly, I secretly hope a lot of people don't "get it". If the quality of last night's meal holds, I expect I'll be dining at Benoit regularly, and I'd rather not have to book my table weeks in advance. If only the BYOB policy could remain, I think I might just live in this place. There's nothing like quaffing down a magnificent bottle of mature Burgundy with your duck a l'orange, without having to take out a second mortgage to do so.

So yes, maybe it is just another brasserie and you shouldn't go out of your way to try it. :wink:

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I find it rather amusing that people were critiquing the this restaurant before it even opened.  Go try it out and see what you think.  I did last night, and I loved it.

I think there was a combination of:

A) People who think all French bistros are the old same boring story

B) People who think era of French classics is over, and is never coming back again

C) People who figure that Ducasse will never get a NYC restaurant right

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this is really really annoying.  take a look at the cocktail list:

http://www.benoitny.com/benoit/PDF/BarBenoit.pdf

not only is the French 75 most certainly not a Benoit creation, but the Champs Elysees listed there has nothing to do with the great original.

this is really quite problematic.

On a not totally unrelated note I stuck my head in the bar area of Benoit which was naturally empty due to the lack of a liquor license. Something I found particularly hilarious is that the restaurant's color scheme when put together (downstairs bathrooms, main dining room and bar area) make it resemble the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks.

Edited by flinflon28 (log)
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the original comments were prompted by the original posted menu...which, frankly, sucked.

As FG observed, the whole point of such a restaurant is to execute classics skillfully. By its own terms, the only way such a place could "suck" is if the execution were poor, which could not be assessed until after it opens. It's not the kind of menu that can "suck" before any food has been served.

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the original comments were prompted by the original posted menu...which, frankly, sucked.

As FG observed, the whole point of such a restaurant is to execute classics skillfully. By its own terms, the only way such a place could "suck" is if the execution were poor, which could not be assessed until after it opens. It's not the kind of menu that can "suck" before any food has been served.

there are classics and there are classics. it'd be hard for any level of execution to overcome how limited that menu appeared to be.

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I ate at Benoit on Saturday. We were enthusiastically greeted when we arrived, and quickly seated. We were presented with some tasty gougere and bread. The menu was attractively laid out and filled with a lot of things I wanted to order. We settled on the charcuterie plate, served for 2, Duck a l'orange, and the lamb.

Charcuterie plate was huge, chock full of salty meats. It was served with pots of cornichons, pickled onions, and dijon. For a first course, it was almost too much rich and fatty meat. We worked through it with smiles.

The duck was served as two thick slices of very succulent breast, a braised leg, a small puck of orange confit, and a small boat of sauce. The breast was extremely rare, but very tender, and though I would have liked a little more crispness of the skin, it was very delicious.

The lamb done three ways was very tasty, though a smidgen over-cooked. It came with a small dish of dauphonois, which was scrumptious. We ordered a side of creamed spinach, which redefined to me what creamed spinach could be.

Dessert was some ice cream and a baba au rhum. The baba was forgettable, nothing like the one at ADNY.

The service, while very friendly, showed a lack of polish. I guess that is to be expected in the first week of service.

As others have echoed, the BYOB policy makes this a huge bargain in the NYC dining market. Our total was just shy of $140, before tip. Add the two bottles of Burgundy and 1/2 bottle of Sauterne, and that total pops a little.

In my view, a good way to start a new restaurant....

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I find it rather amusing that people were critiquing the this restaurant before it even opened.   Go try it out and see what you think.  I did last night, and I loved it.

I think there was a combination of:

A) People who think all French bistros are the old same boring story

B) People who think era of French classics is over, and is never coming back again

C) People who figure that Ducasse will never get a NYC restaurant right

My thoughts on the above:

A) Well, most of them are. I happen to think L'Absinthe and Benoit are not.

B) I believe there will always be a place and a market for the French classics. A perfect roast chicken, foie gras en croute, or tarte tatin is a thing of beauty. Some things are timeless and do not need to be updated just for the sake of novelty.

C) I happened to like both ADNY and Mix, so I'm not the best one to judge. They were much more expensive restaurants though, and I think Benoit has a better shot given that its seems to be a relative bargain by NYC standards.

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I ate at Benoit on Saturday. We were enthusiastically greeted when we arrived, and quickly seated. We were presented with some tasty gougere and bread. The menu was attractively laid out and filled with a lot of things I wanted to order. We settled on the charcuterie plate, served for 2, Duck a l'orange, and the lamb.

Charcuterie plate was huge, chock full of salty meats. It was served with  pots of cornichons, pickled onions, and dijon. For a first course, it was almost too much rich and fatty meat. We worked through it with smiles.

The duck was served as two thick slices of very succulent breast, a braised leg, a small puck of orange confit, and a small boat of sauce. The breast was extremely rare, but very tender, and though I would have liked a little more crispness of the skin, it was very delicious.

The lamb done three ways was very tasty, though a smidgen over-cooked. It came with a small dish of dauphonois, which was scrumptious. We ordered a side of creamed spinach, which redefined to me what creamed spinach could be.

Dessert was some ice cream and a baba au rhum. The baba was forgettable, nothing like the one at ADNY.

The service, while very friendly, showed a lack of polish. I guess that is to be expected in the first week of service.

As others have echoed, the BYOB policy makes this a huge bargain in the NYC dining market. Our total was just shy of $140, before tip. Add the two bottles of Burgundy and 1/2 bottle of Sauterne, and that total pops a little.

In my view, a good way to start a new restaurant....

I find it interesting that I had the same exact meal (minus the charcuterie plate and add escargots), and your thoughts are nearly identical to mine. I'd have liked the duck skin to be a bit more cooked down/crisped and less fatty. The lamb was ordered medium rare and the chop was slightly overcooked. The service was friendly but a tad disorganized. Finally the Baba was not nearly as good as at ADNY.

I know the price point is much lower, but one would think that a Baba is a Baba. If Ducasse can do it at ADNY, why couldn't he provide a similar one at Benoit? Is it a matter of some more intense labor or preparation at ADNY?

Edited by Felonius (log)
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As others have echoed, the BYOB policy makes this a huge bargain in the NYC dining market. Our total was just shy of $140, before tip. Add the two bottles of Burgundy and 1/2 bottle of Sauterne, and that total pops a little.

But what some are missing is that Benoit, at its current prices, is an incredible bargain irrespective of the BYO policy. Even if you had to pay for wine, it would still be cheaper than just about any restaurant of comparable quality.

Astoundingly, it's almost in the Mia Dona price category, for God's sake!

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I know the price point is much lower, but one would think that a Baba is a Baba.  If Ducasse can do it at ADNY, why couldn't he provide a similar one at Benoit?  Is it a matter of some more intense labor or preparation at ADNY?

To be perfectly honest I found the baba to be one of the most offensive desserts I've had in a while.

Just seemed half assed.

Especially after all I'd heard.

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But what some are missing is that Benoit, at its current prices, is an incredible bargain irrespective of the BYO policy.  Even if you had to pay for wine, it would still be cheaper than just about any restaurant of comparable quality.

Well, yes and no. The food price is the food price, with or without wine. The two times I ate at ADNY, I felt the wine was exorbitantly marked up, even for a place of that quality and implicit cost. I'm sure the markup will be less pronounced at Benoit, but I'll make that judgement when I buy my first bottle there...

But yes, 140 bucks is very reasonable...

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Even if you’re a believer in parallel universes, don’t look for any confirmation of it at Benoit. It’s clearly a fake, as a student of design would notice instantly by the cheap, clumsy Hans Wegner knock-off dining chairs and the maladroit attempts to recreate Sem’s caricatures (Sem being the original decorateur and graphics man of Maxim’s) in the cornices above. If you have been to the original Benoit, I doubt you’ll feel transported. But whether or not you have, you’ll be in for the same quasi-French feeling rhat you get at Balthazar or, for those who remember from 1982, the brief, ill-fated transplant of La Coupole in the space that is now Artisinal. Rather than starting a restaurant from scratch with a new identity, Ducasse wisely hit the ground running with a known quantity of sorts already experienced by thousands of Americans who have dined at the real Benoit for decades. Ducasse is not an idiot even if he has sold his culinary soul. I am certain that this is one reason why the ersatz Benoit will be around a lot longer than the New York La Coupole or, for that matter, Ardour.

Once you get past the flim-flammery that also consists of menus without French (and their paucity of enlightenment such that you can’t know without asking if a dish is warm or cold, a fish wild or farmed or with or without the bones for example), and the international roots of a team of waiters who vary wildly in knowledge and experience yet, to a man, (no women serving here that I recall) friendly and efficient, Benoit acquits itself quite nicely and is a welcome addition to New York dining, midtown especially, that may be showing signs economically and culinarily of having its fill of misguided Johnny-Come-Lately chef-shoestring restaurateurs, keying in instead to the sober use of whatever meticulous produce is in New York’s larder.

Without going into a time-consuming and tortuous recitivo of the seven dishes three of us ate, I’ll make it suffice to say that two were disappointing; one better than okay; and three up to Parisian bistro standards, with the French fries meeting a mixed reception. The tongue dish I had been looking forward to turned out to be a visually masterful charcuterized terrine invoking thoughts of a slice of 20-layer cake with thin, alternating strips of tongue and lard with a tasteless mustard powder stuck in-between. The fat overwhelmed everything. Classic French onion soup was as good as you’ll find (If you want to know what an insipid one is like, try it at the Café de Paris in Monaco). As indicated in other reports, the chicken is likely the first choice. Before carving, the waiter brings it to the table in its iron pot with its chervil (?) leaves. I couldn’t resist asking him if it was our chicken or a show chicken. He assured me it was the former. I have to say that it was nice to have dark meat in a restaurant for a change and that it may have been the besr chicken I have had in America.

My wife’s cassoulet was generous both in the amount and the various pieces of meat that were in it. It seemed to lack some intensity and flavor compared to cassoulet I have had in Southwest France, but certainly superior to others I have had in New York.

Having learned to make a soufflé at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, my wife is a stickler for getting the classic variety. She won’t accept the name as applied to one of these molten center creations. Our waiter assured her that the chocolate one was classic, which he based on the fact that it was made in a traditional soufflé dish. It turns out it wasn’t. Rather it seemed to be built on a layer of chocolate cake and wasn’t the light and airy kind you get after 45 minutes of baking. Clearly little or nothing at Benoit is made a la minute or from scratch upon order. Even the chickens, the waiter told us, are cooked ten at a time and finished upon the demand. So what else is new? As for the three flavors of ice cream offered, the vanilla bean was the weakest as it was too sugary and not intense;, but the caramel and chocolate were as good as ice cream gets in this town. Its pure taste is almost always encountered in France, and rarely in these parts.

There’s no question I’ll be back soon. The repertoire is captivating and makes you want to try everything. I suspect that getting a reservation won’t be easy. I’ll hand it to Ducasse this time. After ADNY and Mix, Benoit is his first truly honest Manhattan restaurant. Get there before it gets worse.

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It is astounding to me that there is this much debate on Benoit by people who have not been yet. I would urge you to go. Even if Bistro food is not your favorite.

For this price, there are literally hundreds of mediocre restaurants in NYC that put out sub standard ingredients which are over cooked and under seasoned. Benoit uses excellent ingredients and puts out honest food that is not the fad of the month. I don't like mashed potatoes. Yet their version is absolutely yummy. Can't argue with my palate. The wine list is on their site. It is reasonably priced.

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It is astounding to me that there is this much debate on Benoit by people who have not been yet. I would urge you to go. Even if Bistro food is not your favorite.

For this price, there are literally hundreds of mediocre restaurants in NYC that put out sub standard ingredients which are over cooked and under seasoned. Benoit uses excellent ingredients and puts out honest food that is not the fad of the month. I don't like mashed potatoes. Yet their version is absolutely yummy. Can't argue with my palate. The  wine list is on their site. It is reasonably priced.

I may be wrong about this, but since the restaurant has opened, anybody who has had any criticism of the restaurant has actually eaten there.

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Once you get past the flim-flammery that also consists of menus without French (and their paucity of enlightenment such that you can’t know without asking if a dish is warm or cold, a fish wild or farmed or with or without the bones for example), and the international roots of a team of waiters who vary wildly in knowledge and experience yet, to a man, (no women serving here that I recall) friendly and efficient,

Our server during saturday lunch was a woman. And for once...especially these last few years it was nice to see a menu not take three lines to describe a fish's whole lineage. I understand your point but it is a bistro menu. I take that as meaning it should read as simply as possible.

We also asked a ton of questions to fill in some of the blanks.

Not least of which was asking if they'd serve us the cassoulet even though it's only on the dinner menu. They were unable to do so.

Edited by flinflon28 (log)
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Once you get past the flim-flammery that also consists of menus without French (and their paucity of enlightenment such that you can’t know without asking if a dish is warm or cold, a fish wild or farmed or with or without the bones for example), and the international roots of a team of waiters who vary wildly in knowledge and experience yet, to a man, (no women serving here that I recall) friendly and efficient,

Our server during saturday lunch was a woman. And for once...especially these last few years it was nice to see a menu not take three lines to describe a fish's whole lineage. I understand your point but it is a bistro menu. I take that as meaning it should read as simply as possible.

We also asked a ton of questions to fill in some of the blanks.

Not least of which was asking if they'd serve us the cassoulet even though it's only on the dinner menu. They were unable to do so.

I agree with both sides of this argument. While I don't need to know the duck's credit score, I would have liked to have known it was served the way it was. Every duck a l'orange I've ever had was a slow cooked half duck. If they want to take a classic dish and add a twist, that's great, but the waiter might mention it (especially while the restaurant is young and word hasn't really gotten out as to their plating tendencies). I guess my point is, keep the menu sleek and elegant, but have the waitstaff offer quick comments about the dish. Sure, I could ask, but some things come with expectations.

That was some damn good duck though.

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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