08 February 2009

Les Halles, 411 Park Ave South (at 29th St.)

When my good friend Rachael said she was coming in to town for the weekend to share travelling photos and plan our trip to Chile, we both agreed there was no better occasion to frequent a fine French restaurant than this, both of us being mildly obsessed with French culture & the language (but her spending far more time there than I have, yes I'm a little jealous).

After nixing the idea of looking for a place online myself, I went straight to my previously mentioned foodie coworker Brian who referred me to a few different establishments, but I felt that Les Halles was the best pick for value, price and novelty (Anthony Bourdain started here, and based his book Kitchen Confidential off his experiences as a chef while chef'ing here).

We end up rocking up to Les Halles around 10ish, after grabbing a few quick drinks and waiting for Rachael's friend Tyler's girlfriend to join us. We're quickly seated, and the wine menu is handed to me to select....purely on the recommendation of the waiter, I select a $60 bottle of 2005 Chassagne-Montrachet (“La Canière”). I get the honor of tasting, and of course it's delicious.

We hastily decide on mains as well, and here was the verdict:
  • Me: Due to it being "Choucroute Month", I chose the Choucroute de Royale (Smoked Bacon, Blood Sausage, Smoked Pork Lion, Frankfurter, Smoked Pork Shank, Cervelat-Salami, Boiled Potatoes, & Sauerkraut slow cooked in Champagne).
  • Rachael: Poulet Rôti, Frites (Oven roasted organic chicken & fries).
  • Tyler: Choucroute de Canard (Foie Gras and Duck Sausage, Duck Leg Confit, Duck Gizzards, Boiled Potatoes, Sauerkraut slow cooked in Gewurztraminer).
  • Tyler's Girlfriend: Pavé de Thon Grillé, sauce Vierge, Légumes Grillés à l’Huile d’Olive (grilled tuna with grilled vegetables, lemon juice, olive oil).

My choucroute plate was incredible. It came out as a pile of incredibly well-cooked delicious meats, my favorite being the smoked bacon (obviously). I also got to try the tuna, which was ordered rare, and could not have been cooked better. It was perfectly seasoned, and the temperature was perfect. From the bite I had of the duck leg, due to the fact it was duck and intrinsically awesome, it tasted incredibly seasoned and cooked as well. I cannot speak for the chicken as I did not try it.

Rachael and I both ended up taking half of our dishes home, and then split a dessert of chocolate and banana tart with vanilla sauce. I only had a few bites, and frankly I wasn't all that impressed. It was not nearly as good as the chocolate wontons from Chow Bar or the creme brulee from Rigsby's Kitchen. But then again, you know me, I'm all about the weirdest forking ingredients and flavors I can find, especially in desserts, as I really don't like them to begin with.

Besides the ridiculously nicely cooked heaps of meat that contributed to a great meal at Les Halles, I found the ambiance pretty decent. If you're looking for typical Parisian cafe culture and spirit, don't go to Les Halles. If you're looking for the New York, urban trendy cafe with delicious French meats, go to Les Halles. The music was great, but it was a little dark for my tastes (the only light was candlelight, and we struggled to read our menus).

Les Halles gets 2.5 forks, but could have gotten 5 if we could have met Anthony Bourdain.

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