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