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Les Halles - wish I'd listened to the reviews...

  • k

I had an out of town visitor this weekend who is a huge Anthony Bourdain fan. So against my better judgment after reading the reviews on this board, we went to Les Halles (John Street location) for dinner.

We started off with the grilled calamari salad with shaved fennel salad and the fois gras appetizer. Good but nothing extraordinary.

We ordered the strip steak w/ shallot butter, flatiron steak w/ peppercorn sauce and mussels mariniere, all with frites. The mussels were the best thing that we ordered but again, not good enough to make me want to come back. The steaks were flavorless and in my opinion, stringy (ick). We ended with profiteroles which were just ok.

But the worst thing of all was the service! It was not busy and I couldn't believe how bad it was. It took the servers about 20 minutes to bring us water, even though several of them walked right past our table. No one asked us how our food was, we waited at least 15 minutes for our wine after ordering it, waited another 15 minutes for our check, and yet another 15 minutes for them to take our credit card! If the restaurant had been busy, I may have been able to understand but really, we were one of 5 tables in the whole place by the end. The three of us left the restaurant, shaking our heads...

This may go down as one of the worst experiences I've had in NYC. Next time, I will listen to the posters on this board!

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  1. Thanks. I had this down as a possibility for my next trip to NYC.

    3 Replies
    1. re: yayadave

      Is Bourdain still connected with these restaurants?

      1. re: yayadave

        It would seem that for every restaurant experience, there is an equal and opposite restaurant experience. While on a visit last fall, I went to Les Halles (the Park Ave location) with a group of four and no reservation, was treated very politely, and the food was sublime. Beef, pork, and fish dishes were all perfectly prepared, and our service was spot on and very personable.

        Here is a link to my post:

      2. And I bet they still have Bourdain's books on display. It really is too bad since, as the link says, he has never had any connection with that restaurant.

        1. The John Street location has been very hit or miss since it first opened (after a short run as Le Marais II); I've pretty much eliminated it from my lunch spots, since the table service is typically poor (I've had better experiences sitting at the bar).

          I wouldn't judge the Park Avenue location by your experience downtown, however. I can't recall having a bad dining experience there, either in terms or service or food, either before KC made the place "famous" or afterwards. It is important, however, to bear in mind that it's bistro-style food.

          1. I agree that I've always had a good experience at the Park Ave location. I've eaten at the John St. location twice and found the service to be somewhat slow, but the restaurant was packed both times and my tablemates ordered steak tartare, which is prepared tableside -- so I anticipated some wait.

            1. I have had some great meals at the Park Ave locale. Stay with bistro style food there though. Service can be spotty. Ask for Tim if you go. He is a pro.

              1. The Park Ave. location is one of my favorite stand-bys in the city for a consistently excellent steak. I haven't been to the Downtown location, but I've never had a bad experience at the original.

                1. Hummm, did Rocco recently purchase Les Halles?

                  1. never been to the JohnSt location, but the Park Ave one is terrible (and is notorious on this board for substandard service and food)...there are so many better bistros in NYC, that imo there is never a good excuse for going to Les Halles...

                    1. I acutually had a great meal (lunch) here at the John St. location. Serice was very efficent, and the food came out superb. I suppose it is when and where? I only dined here once so I can't speak on an expertise point of view.

                      1. The first time we went to the Park Ave location for brunch the food was not so memoralbe. The only thing that stuck in my mind was the weak French press coffee and the cartilage in hubby's lamb sausage. The service was so so too. Even before we got our entrees a server came over to ask if we wanted any desert. Obviously the service was badly coordinated and no one seemed to know what others were doing. During our meal we saw the servers mixed up someone's checks which happened to us later then again to the table next to us. There are some really mindless servers working there.

                        Why went the second time? Because we're very hungary and the other places all had long waits. Les Halles was really close and it was half empty during the prime of Sunday brunch hour so we got a table right away. We knew not to expect much from food or service. The service was again poor. One bus person tried to take half eaten soup from hubby and our waiter only showed his face to take our order and then again to give us the check with a big smile this time. No one ever came over to see how our meal was the whole time even though the restaurant was half empty. Foodwise my potato hash that came with the duck confit was crispy and flavorful though greasy. The duck confit was ok but I wouldn't order it again. Forgot what hubby had because nothing stood out. Nothing was offensively bad or good. I will return if I am in the neighborhood and in the similar situations but it will never be my first choice.

                        1. I've been to the Park Avenue South edition of Les Halles at least 50 times over the last 15 years. (Their 16th birthday is coming up on Halloween.) Anthony Bourdain did indeed cook there for many years. He's still nominally connected to the place. Last year, I went to his book party at the restaurant. I have never had anything but superb bistro fare there, including the best French fries I've ever had, every time, and wonderful steak tartare, made tableside to your own specifications. Until I had choucroute at Cafe d'Alsace a few weeks ago, I thought Les Halles served the best ever. It's still in the top three in Manhattan.

                          The downtown Les Halles is another story altogether. I agree with most of what the above hounds have written. But the Park Avenue South restaurant is a plum.