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Best French Bistro

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I just posted, but I think it was way too broad, so I am going to start again.
I will be traveling to New York with family (mom, sister, aunts) in autumn. We all love French food. I have seen a few posts on different French Bistro's on the site, but if we were going to choose just one... what should it be?

Pastis
Balthazar
Artisanal

I am sure there are plenty of others, but this is what I have found so far.

Also- we will be traveling for my mom's birthday- are any of the above worthy for a birthday dinner?

Thanks!!
Alexa
http://www.52perfectdays.com

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Artisanal
2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Pastis
9 9th Ave, New York, NY 10014

Balthazar
80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. I'd order them as:
    Balthazar
    Artisanal
    Pastis

    Artisanal is better, though, if you're looking for fondu. Balthazar is bustling and can be fun/celebratory. I think it would work for a b-day dinner, but it depends on what kind of atmosphere you're looking for.

    1. Not to get too technical, but Balthazar and Artisanal are both brasseries, not bistros. Both are good though. Better than the three IMO (and a bistro to boot) is Raoul's in Soho.

      2 Replies
      1. re: digsnola

        Ha, I was going to say the same thing! def brasseries!

        1. re: digsnola

          digsnola, what do you like at Raoul's? (besides the steak frites)...i used to like R's a long time ago, but i've found the menu really disappointing lately and the tuna tartar i had there a couple months ago was simply awful (full of eggplant skin and a hot sauce that didn't work at all)...i want to like Raoul's again, but there's not much on their current menu that i want to order...

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          Raoul's
          180 Prince St., New York, NY 10012

        2. Being a cheese fiend I prefer Artisanal, but I'm also partial to Cosette - a tiny piece of paris on 33rd near 3rd Ave.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Spends Rent on Food

            Is Cosette near Penn Station? We will be staying in the area.
            Alexa
            http://www.52perfectdays.com

            1. re: alexa52

              From Penn Station, Cosette is a 15 minute walk due east on 33rd (Penn Station is on 33rd). Otherwise you can stop walking after 10 minutes and eat at Artisanal (32nd & Park)

              1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                Le Gigot in the Village. Small, quaint, romantic and fantastic food.

          2. Thanks for all the recommendations. We ended up at Balthazar first. I can't say enough. Everyone's food was amazing, great service, nice wine list. I would recommend it highly.

            We also tried Artisanal, and while the fondue was very good (we had the traditional) the service was horrible. Our waitress didn't give us the time of day. We had to flag her down to order additional wine, water, forks for the fondue, etc. Although she couldn't find time to attend to our table it seemed like she couldn't do enough for the couple sitting in a table near us. I rarely leave a bad tip-- but in this case we did and spoke to the manager.

            Alexa
            http://52perfectdays.com

            1. I don't know about "Best," because I'm sure there are bistros I haven't been to... but my favorite is Gascogne on 8th and 18th.

              Glad you had a good time in New York, but for the record, Balthazar is a brasserie, not a bistro. I've never been to Artisanal.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune

                re: brasserie vs. bistro...while it's true that Balthazar is brasserie (a NY version of one anyway), i think the br/b distinction has less meaning in NYC, where i feel the French options are pretty limited...

                fwiw, i like Cercle Rouge Brasserie better than any of the other places mentioned...have recently started going and it's now far and away my favorite option for French food in NY...

                -----
                Cercle Rouge
                241 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10013

              2. Heading back to New York soon. Wondering if the best fondue is still found at Artisinal?

                9 Replies
                1. re: alexa52

                  IMO, absolutely.

                  1. re: Spiritchaser

                    I would add La Silhouette to the list. It may pretend to greater things, but basically it's a very good bistro and reasonably priced.

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                    La Silhouette
                    362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                    1. re: strangemd

                      I would add Cercle Rouge, and Paradou and Lucien

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                      Paradou
                      8 Little West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

                      Lucien
                      14 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

                      Cercle Rouge
                      241 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                        So far, i've liked every dish i've had at Cercle Rouge. Tried the bouillabaise last night and it was excellent, with huge portions of seafood.

                        -----
                        Cercle Rouge
                        241 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                      2. re: strangemd

                        Have you or anyone been to La Silhouette since the arrival of former chef de cuisine from La Grenouille? Curious as how things have changed for both places since...

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                        La Grenouille
                        3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                        La Silhouette
                        362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: Kurtis

                          I have not been in a few months, but that's a great excuse to go again. I wonder if they've become more ambitious with the change? Their veal sweetbreads and truffled wild mushroom risotto were my comfort food last winter.

                          1. re: Kurtis

                            I had dinner at La Silhouette last week and thought it was better than ever. Seared foie gras with roasted pears and hazelnuts, a lamb chop paired with lamb shank, and creme fraiche tart with blueberry compote and chocolate sorbet - all wonderful! I was relieved that the chef retained the slightly rustic aspect of food and didn't try to elevate it to a grande dame kind of menu. It's a lovely place run by very nice people. By all means go.

                            -----
                            La Silhouette
                            362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                            1. re: fm1963

                              fm1963, thank you for your update. We've been meaning to return here for sometime since the change of the chef, but our last visit - in April prior to the change - left us rather disappointed after having their tasting menu.

                              strangemd, sweetbread and risotto sounds like a nice course meal on a wintry evening.

                            2. re: Kurtis

                              My friend went to La silhouette recently and said the place was very disorganized. They had the tasting menu paired wine. They served wrong wines and something about serving dinner in wrong order. She begged me not to go there.

                              -----
                              La Silhouette
                              362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                      3. A decade ago I would have agreed with Schpsychman and nominated Le Gigot. It -feels- like a bistro, warm and cosy, and the food was very good. My last two meals, however, were a tad disappointing, and I haven't been for a few years now. I should probably revisit the place soon...

                        New York does seem to have a shortage of proper bistros these days, and very little like the overperforming Paris bistros helmed by up-and-coming young chefs (let alone something like Le Chateaubriand). I suppose we've the likes of Momofuku Ssäm and M Wells instead?

                        Is La Silhouette really a bistro? If one doesn't opt for the prix-fixe, the prices seem awfully dear. And the room looks rather severe...

                        -----
                        Le Gigot
                        18 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014

                        La Silhouette
                        362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Winterpool

                          I realise these are -terribly- old-school, but how are Chez Napoleon and Capsouto Frères?

                          -----
                          Chez Napoleon
                          365 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019

                          Capsouto Freres
                          451 Washington St, New York, NY 10013

                          1. re: Winterpool

                            There are several NY hounds whose opinions I come to value that like Chez Napoleon, but we found the place sub-average on our visit a month ago; so it may have been an off night, and the grandmere wasn't doing much cooking that night either.

                            We really enjoyed overall experience at Capsouto Freres, sitting outside with a glimpse of the Hudson river and the sunset on a quiet street. Food certainly is above average, I would say in the league of Gascogne and Le Gigot. Here's a recent thread that discusses Old Guard French in NYC.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/803134

                            -----
                            Le Gigot
                            18 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014

                            Gascogne
                            158 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                            Chez Napoleon
                            365 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019

                            Capsouto Freres
                            451 Washington St, New York, NY 10013

                            1. re: Winterpool

                              I ate at Capsouto Frères for the first time recently and didn't love it. The food was adequate but not memorable in any way. Kind of a sleepy place with sleepy service.

                              -----
                              Capsouto Freres
                              451 Washington St, New York, NY 10013

                              1. re: City Kid

                                City Kid, I would agree with you about their food, and it is far from being memorable. While there are several adequate to good choices, unfortunately there isn't a single "old guard" French places left that serves memorable food that I know of except La Grenouille perhaps but LG isn't really an every day/routine place for many people. If you know of one, I would love a recommendation!

                                What I enjoyed about CF was their relaxed and unintrusive service w/ adequate to good food, sitting outside on their tranquil (raised) balcony with minimal foot/auto traffic with the view of the sunset; nice way to decompress after a crowded/hectic day in the city.

                                -----
                                La Grenouille
                                3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                              2. re: Winterpool

                                Capsouto Freres is definitely old school, but a great room and great location (also easy to park in the evening). The food is not really french bistro, i guess the description is "mediterranean". The brunch is good

                                -----
                                Capsouto Freres
                                451 Washington St, New York, NY 10013

                              3. re: Winterpool

                                Well, La Silhouette can be expensive, but the prix fix is $48, which is quite reasonable. And even a la carte, I don't find it more expensive than Balthazar or Artisanal. The price/value relationship in NY is pretty crazy, but what can you do--we live here.

                                -----
                                La Silhouette
                                362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                                1. re: strangemd

                                  If you book through Savored.com you'll get 30% off your bill at La Silhouette. I have a reservation in a few days and can't wait to try it.

                                  The 30% discount is also available for DB Bistro Moderne, SHO Shaun Hergatt, Millesime, Recette, Aquavit, Nuela, Junoon, Fatty Crab and several other Chowhound faves.

                                  -----
                                  La Silhouette
                                  362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                                  1. re: Tommy D.

                                    I thought I'd seen La Silhouette on the Savored site... This may be a must-try now. Pity it's such a stark room...

                                    On the other hand, their offering 30 per cent discounts in conjunction with the fact they seem not to have paid their web-hosting fees ['Future home of something quite cool'] makes me wonder if things are well in hand over there. Currently trying to find reviews that postdate the change of chef...

                                    -----
                                    La Silhouette
                                    362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                                    1. re: Winterpool

                                      La Silhouette is excellent. Though I don't think of it as a bistro by any means. Had no idea about any discounts there. Its an upscale pretty spot with good service and a well trained kitchen staff.

                                      -----
                                      La Silhouette
                                      362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                                      1. re: Winterpool

                                        It it just me, or is La Silhouette's wine list 'old-school' in entirely the wrong ways? It looks a bit of a mess, and the wines that interest me cost hundreds of dollars.

                                        And no half-bottles?

                                        -----
                                        La Silhouette
                                        362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

                                2. [sigh] I found uhockey's review of Le Chateaubriand...

                                  http://endoedibles.com/?p=334

                                  Have young American chefs no interest in modern bistros? Can we import someone from an outlying arrondissement?