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Bistro Benoit


docsconz
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Why would you even THINK of ADNY as a comparison?  Could Benoit be MORE different?

Maybe because DB Bistro Moderne has a lot of Daniel in it, and Georges Perrier's bistro fare at Le Bar-Lyonnais (Philadelphia) is sublime.

I know, Ducasse is not a Chef, but I was hoping for a little of ADNY's magic to filter down to this humble bistro. I have to say my one meal at Benoit wasn't as good as any I have had at DB or Le Bar-Lyonnais, but it wasn't bad.

I would say that Benoit and DB bistro is sort of apples to oranges. DB is at a higher price point, and their famous burger notwithstanding, generally attempts a more complex type of cuisine than at Benoit.

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I couldn't resist sneaking in a second visit while they were still BYOB.

Here's what I tried:

Onion soup - Perhaps the best I've ever had. Very rich broth, perfectly browned cheese crust, very rich and decadent. It was great to finally have an excellent onion soup gratinee, as so many places these days do a really poor one.

Steak au poivre - Excellent peppercorn crust and sauce. The quality of the meat was nothing special, same as what you'd find in many bistros. For $27 (or was it $29), I'm not sure how much more one could expect in NYC.

Baba au Rhum - I tried this a second time, after a discussion with the manager and the waiter about my disappointment with the Baba on my first visit. The Baba at ADNY was a personal favorite. The Benoit Baba was still disappointing. The cake just seems too dry, tough and chewy (more bread-like), whereas at ADNY it was dense yet spongy and delicate (more cake-like). The manager and waiter said I wasn't the first to notice this and comment. They also said that Ducasse was going to be in the kitchen in a week or so, and that this was on their list of things to sort out. They thought it might be due to having the wrong baking molds/tins or something of that nature. I wonder if like the souffle, they are prepping the Baba differently. I am also trying to remember if they heated the rum tableside before pouring at ADNY. I remember the dessert being slightly warm.

Anyway, they said that the Baba recipe was the same at all ADNY restaurants, and that this one wasn't yet up to snuff. They were kind enough to insist taking the Baba off of my bill.

Overall, another great experience. I just love the menu, and everything I've had so far has been excellent other than the Baba.

My only fear is that soon it will be impossible to get a table and/or the prices are going to be pushed up.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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Baba au Rhum - I tried this a second time, after a discussion with the manager and the waiter about my disappointment with the Baba on my first visit.  The Baba at ADNY was a personal favorite.  The Benoit Baba was still disappointing.  The cake just seems too dry, tough and chewy (more bread-like), whereas at ADNY it was dense yet spongy and delicate (more cake-like).  The manager and waiter said I wasn't the first to notice this and comment.  They also said that Ducasse was going to be in the kitchen in a week or so, and that this was on their list of things to sort out.  They thought it might be due to having the wrong baking molds/tins or something of that nature.  I wonder if like the souffle, they are prepping the Baba differently.  I am also trying to remember if they heated the rum tableside before pouring at ADNY.  I remember the dessert being slightly warm.

Anyway, they said that the Baba recipe was the same at all ADNY restaurants, and that this one wasn't yet up to snuff.  They were kind enough to insist taking the Baba off of my bill. 

Overall, another great experience.  I just love the menu, and everything I've had so far has been excellent other than the Baba. 

My only fear is that soon it will be impossible to get a table and/or the prices are going to be pushed up.

I also agree that the Baba at Benoit is not comparable to the one at ADNY. The Rum was not heated at ADNY. Nor is it heated at ADPA or Louis XV.

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Onion soup - Perhaps the best I've ever had.  Very rich broth, perfectly browned cheese crust, very rich and decadent.  It was great to finally have an excellent onion soup gratinee, as so many places these days do a really poor one. 

Steak au poivre - Excellent peppercorn crust and sauce.  The quality of the meat was nothing special, same as what you'd find in many bistros.  For $27 (or was it $29), I'm not sure how much more one could expect in NYC.

Baba au Rhum - I tried this a second time, after a discussion with the manager and the waiter about my disappointment with the Baba on my first visit.  The Baba at ADNY was a personal favorite.  The Benoit Baba was still disappointing.  The cake just seems too dry, tough and chewy (more bread-like), whereas at ADNY it was dense yet spongy and delicate (more cake-like).  The manager and waiter said I wasn't the first to notice this and comment.  They also said that Ducasse was going to be in the kitchen in a week or so, and that this was on their list of things to sort out.  They thought it might be due to having the wrong baking molds/tins or something of that nature.  I wonder if like the souffle, they are prepping the Baba differently.  I am also trying to remember if they heated the rum tableside before pouring at ADNY.  I remember the dessert being slightly warm.

I ordered the same items and had a similar impression, except that my onion soup was one of the worst examples I have had in recent memory. I would guess that it was made from unseasoned canned broth.

I can't name a superior example of a $27 steak au poivre off of the top of my head, but I have had much better steaks at that price point at Balthazar and B. Cafe. I also think DB's $29 steak was also much better.

I will definitely be returning some day, but I will be using more care in choosing my dishes.

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A couple of years ago, who would have predicted that the opening of a classic French bistrot, even under the name of Ducasse, would have garnereed this much attention in this forum?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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I also agree that the Baba at Benoit is not comparable to the one at ADNY. The Rum was not heated at ADNY. Nor is it heated at ADPA or Louis XV.

It's probably been two years now since I last dined at ADNY. Can you describe from memory the difference between the that Baba (or the the one at ADPA or Louis XV) and the one at Benoit? I'm curious to know if I'm on the mark or just have a faulty memory. Maybe I was just more tipsy after a long meal at ADNY and in a better mood by the time dessert came along. :biggrin:

Edited by Felonius (log)
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I also agree that the Baba at Benoit is not comparable to the one at ADNY. The Rum was not heated at ADNY. Nor is it heated at ADPA or Louis XV.

It's probably been two years now since I last dined at ADNY. Can you describe from memory the difference between the that Baba (or the the one at ADPA or Louis XV) and the one at Benoit? I'm curious to know if I'm on the mark or just have a faulty memory. Maybe I was just more tipsy after a long meal at ADNY and in a better mood by the time dessert came along. :biggrin:

Can do better since I had the Benoit Baba last week and the Baba at Louis XV yesterday. Your memory is accurate. THe Benoit Baba was stale, the rum poured over the baba, no choice of rum was offered. The Baba's at ADNY, ADPA, and Louis XV were fresh and wonderful. 5 or 6 different rums were offered at all three restaurants. In Monte Carlo, you are left to add the whipped cream to the rum soaked baba. At ADNY, it was all done for you by the captain, the same at ADPA. Hope this helps.

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I also agree that the Baba at Benoit is not comparable to the one at ADNY. The Rum was not heated at ADNY. Nor is it heated at ADPA or Louis XV.

It's probably been two years now since I last dined at ADNY. Can you describe from memory the difference between the that Baba (or the the one at ADPA or Louis XV) and the one at Benoit? I'm curious to know if I'm on the mark or just have a faulty memory. Maybe I was just more tipsy after a long meal at ADNY and in a better mood by the time dessert came along. :biggrin:

Can do better since I had the Benoit Baba last week and the Baba at Louis XV yesterday. Your memory is accurate. THe Benoit Baba was stale, the rum poured over the baba, no choice of rum was offered. The Baba's at ADNY, ADPA, and Louis XV were fresh and wonderful. 5 or 6 different rums were offered at all three restaurants. In Monte Carlo, you are left to add the whipped cream to the rum soaked baba. At ADNY, it was all done for you by the captain, the same at ADPA. Hope this helps.

That is helpful. I just remember loving the Baba, as simple a dessert as it may be, enough that I had it on every visit to ADNY. I was thus surprised when it didn't do anything for me at Benoit.

I do remember the cart with the choice of all the different rums. The staff at Benoit also said that they didn't think they had the right rum. Given, for $9 at Benoit, I'm not sure they could offer the sort of premium rums they might be offering at the more expensive AD restaurants. Then again, it's not like the dessert calls for much rum, so maybe they could use something similar. I remember a rum at ADNY that I particularly liked, that had an orange-like flavor. I think it may have been Rum Clement VSOP from Martinique.

If the Babas as Benoit are "stale" as you say, perhaps they are cooking them well in advance and it doesn't work well this way. I'm not sure how long it takes to cook a Baba. Is it possible that at ADNY the Baba was cooked (or at least finished in the oven) to order? I know that there is a huge difference in the Madeleines at a place like Cafe Boulud, when you receive them fresh out of the oven as opposed to cold ones.

Sorry if I'm going overboard on this, but I just want my ADNY Baba back!

Edited by Felonius (log)
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mixed.

ate at one of the walk-in tables in the bar on Friday.

service was very pleasant and competent.

the charcuterie was very very good. at $39 for two, it's not cheap, but you get large portions of a variety of things, including good foie and veal tongue.

duck l'orange wasn't very good. meat wasn't cooked properly and it needed seasoning. the sauce is what it is....not that flavorful to begin with and in addition it was kind of thin. price is quite reasonable.

my friend's quenelles de brochet were flavorless and kind of mushy.

very pretty space.

I'll return for the charcuterie and to try the cassoulet

Edited by Nathan (log)
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I also ate there Friday night, and luckily enough, it was still BYO - the guy inviting our group brought Ruinart champagne and 5 bottles of Smith-Haut-Lafitte, so who was I to want to look at the wine list? :)

After hearing so much about it, I ordered the chicken (the last one they had that night) and it was very good. They bring it to the table whole, with baked garlic on the side, as has been said here before, then take it back for carving. Comes with a pile of ultra-thin L'Ami Louis style fries, which were perfectly done.

Charcuterie plate was another big hit - much more refined and delicate than a regular plate of charcuterie you might get at a regular bistro.

My favourite main course, strangely enough, was the lobster ravioli, the delicate pillows hidden under a very intensely flavoured lobster foam, or foaming sauce, reminiscent of a great lobster bisque. Delicious.

And the biggest hit of the night were the profiteroles, served fondue-style (see picture), with hot molten chocolate on the side in a little silver pan in a bain-marie, and a quenelle of vanilla ice cream in another little silver pan. Never seen so many vanilla specks on ice cream before - to die for.

So forget the Baba - just go for the profiteroles!

Long story short: the food at Benoit is very very good.

gallery_36345_5955_27963.jpg

Edited by AlexForbes (log)

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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A couple of years ago, who would have predicted that the opening of a classic French bistrot, even under the name of Ducasse, would have garnereed this much attention in this forum?

The buzz here is indeed perhaps unprecedented.

Of course, for anyone rooted in the past and in favor of traditional foods (now who could that be? oh wait, me!) this sounds wonderful. I have a reservation for Thursday, and I can't wait.

Maybe to drive you crazy, Doc, I'll report back that the food "wasn't inventive enough".

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Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

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I also ate there Friday night, and luckily enough, it was still BYO - the guy inviting our group brought Ruinart champagne and 5 bottles of Smith-Haut-Lafitte, so who was I to want to look at the wine list? :)

gallery_36345_5955_27963.jpg

no, it wasn't byo on Friday.

do you mean that they waived the corkage for your group?

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the problem with Benoit isn't that the food isn't "inventive"...it's that they can't cook duck, make a reduction or quenelles that have any flavor.

What did you find objectionable with the way they cooked your duck?

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Overcooked (I was there Friday with Nathan as well).

The quenelles were rather mushy, and the sauce an extraordinarily generic tarted-up demiglace with no subtlety and little flavor beyond the base elements of demiglace, a frisson of something trout-y, and salt.

All in all, I was rather unimpressed.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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no, it wasn't byo on Friday.

do you mean that they waived the corkage for your group?

It was byo for those people with reservations who they had called the day before and told to bring their own wine. They got the license Friday afternoon so for walk-ins it was regular service.

We actually sat next to the service station with all those Smith Haut Lafitte bottles on it...and had brought a few bottles on our own. Unfortunately they left our wines unchilled until we arrived despite me making the effort of dropping them off an hour earlier. That was a bit symptomatic of the overall service experience, they still need to get their act together, but that is to expect at this stage. They were all very friendly and our server was very good.

The decor we found all a bit too much Vegas-like. Maybe some patina over the years will help.

Regarding the food the charcuterie plate was the big winner. The pate en croute, the toungue and the foie gras were all outstanding. Jambon cru and salami were ok. This is definitely a plate I would be pleased to have on a regular basis.

The chicken was good, but not as exciting as I had hoped for. It looked and smelled fantastic and the meat was nicely infused with the garlic and herbs. But it was a bit overcooked, the breast dry and a bit mushy. That also showed that it was not a top notch chicken to begin with, the flesh lacked the firmness of the better stuff (though maybe that is to be expected at the price point).

I did not try the steak one of my friends had but he was extremely pleased. The vegetables en cocotte and the spinach got also good reviews, but I was too full to try everything on the table as I usually do. The vegetables en cocotte are usually braised in chicken stock but they changed that for our vegetarian friend and he enjoyed the dish. I still would be surprised if they did not add some vegetarian options soon to make their life easier.

What I found a bit lacking regarding the menu was that all dishes are very much on the safe side. Chicken, steak, duck, lamb. Where are the kidney, liver, tripe dishes? What about some blanquette de veau ? My hope is that they want to establish the "core" of the menu first and once the place is running smoothly will add to it. I also would assume that some fine tuning by Mr Ducasse will further enhance the experience.

As expected I would enjoy going back (despite my negative experience on the phone to which the restaurant never responded).

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the problem with Benoit isn't that the food isn't "inventive"...it's that they can't cook duck, make a reduction or quenelles that have any flavor.

What did you find objectionable with the way they cooked your duck?

all the flavor cooked out, dry.

sauce was limpid.

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no, it wasn't byo on Friday.

do you mean that they waived the corkage for your group?

It was byo for those people with reservations who they had called the day before and told to bring their own wine. They got the license Friday afternoon so for walk-ins it was regular service.

Actually, when I was there on Friday (as a walk-in) they were happy to let us drink our own wine (we decided just to order off the list). They should have a corkage fee in place by now, though.

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The decor we found all a bit too much Vegas-like. Maybe some patina over the years will help.

The vegetables en cocotte are usually braised in chicken stock but they changed that for our vegetarian friend and he enjoyed the dish. I still would be surprised if they did not add some vegetarian options soon to make their life easier.

That's interesting- I thought the decor was stunning and avoided looking Vegas like. I thought it was a very very accurate rendition of what exists in Paris and to some extent how Parisian brasseries are done today (with a lot of money). They did need to turn down the lights in the dining room, which they eventually did. I like the bathrooms, too.

Do you really think that Benoit needs vegetarian dishes to survive? I don't think they would make those changes in Europe, certainly, but maybe the American public is demanding enough for that to be possible. I would imagine the veggies taste much better in stock, but I'm not even sure if I can tell given the amount of butter in the dish (in a fantastic way- there is not an inappropriate amount, just a lot).

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That's interesting- I thought the decor was stunning and avoided looking Vegas like.  I thought it was a very very accurate rendition of what exists in Paris and to some extent how Parisian brasseries are done today (with a lot of money).  They did need to turn down the lights in the dining room, which they eventually did. 

Do you really think that Benoit needs vegetarian dishes to survive?  I don't think they would make those changes in Europe, certainly, but maybe the American public is demanding enough for that to be possible. 

It is great that we are all so different..... :biggrin: We found it tacky. But de gustibus....

That the room was so bright was actually the thing we liked most about it (next to the beautiful chairs). Might be a cultural thing though; in the US dining rooms often tend to feel cave-like to me and my american friends love it just that way.

I do agree that they will not "need" vegetarian dishes. But I think it makes life much easier for everybody. Despite me trying hard to keep my circle of friends pure in that respect there are always some nice vegetarians who manage to sneak in....and I like to have them around. In my opinion it makes a lot of sense these days to have at least one vegetarian dish in each category for every restaurant. Done well they enrich every menu and especially Ducasse is known to be great with vegetables. He put a lot of emphasis on them already many years ago.

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