Les Halles - Downtown or Park Ave?
My friend really wants to go after reading Kitchen Confidential, despite my repeated protests that he will not see Anthony Bourdain there. Which is the better branch?
Park Ave. is definitely better than downtown. I would just add that if possible, you should go for lunch rather than dinner, as it is quieter and less crowded, and as a result the service is somewhat better. There are a lot of negative opinions about the food, and while there are certainly better places around for the price, certain dishes such as onion soup, smoked herring, steak tartare, choucroute, and boudin noir (blood sausage) with apples are quite good.
Park is my favorite and lower Manhattan is so torn up right now the one on John has scaffolding all around it which isn't much fun
Neither. It's a mediocre factory version of a bistro. Peek in and have a drink at the bar if you must, then go to somewhere like Balthazar for much better food.
Don't know about downtown, but I would avoid the Park Av. location because there is nothing about it that makes it worth going there. The food is mediocre at best; service is awful; seating is so cramped, it would make a sardine yell, "Uncle!"; and the noise level is hideously high.
Anthony Bourdain has nothing to do with Les Halles anymore and hasn't for several years. If the Bourdain connection is her sole reason for wanting to go to Les Halles it's sort of like saying he wants to go to KFC because of the connection to Col. Sanders!
Both locations of Les Halles are very mediocre- you can do a lot better.
absolutely not. order anything but the beef. the beef quality is uniformly poor. get your steak frites fix elsewhere.
both park and downtown are equally so-so, but since park is the original go there. some of the non beef dishes are good, such as cassoulet and some other standards.
i totally agree it's definately a lunch place not a dinner place. i still like it despite it's faults, it's consistent and anyway it's the same as when bourdain was there.
Thanks to everyone who provided input and sorry for taking so long to write a reply. I actually visited the Park Ave branch 2 weekends ago and had an overall fair experience there. Some observations:
Dark in the evenings, and very loud given the traditional brasserie setting with a lot of noise-reflective surfaces and packed room.Not a place for a quiet dinner, but since we were a group of 14 and contributed to the cacophony it was a great, busy space for our purpose.
Service was fine, and we sat there for a good 3 hours without being rushed, and the runners and servers came by regularly to look after us. There was a slight service issue regarding a bottle of corked wine which the maitre' d insisting that a dining companion had accepted when he first sipped it. The fault was probably 50-50, but they agreed to switch a bottle for us in the end.
I think the steak's as good as advertised for a $20 piece of hanger steak, with the right temperature. I guess I was expecting gristle and was pleasantly surprised to see none. Yes, my expectations were that low. The friend sitting across from me ordered the pork chop with mustard sauce. It was juicy and quite delicious. The pork tenderloin on the other hand seemed a little dried out, but I didn't try it so can't pass judgement on it. The fries were excellent, the sides were plain, and the desserts were traditionally and actually quite good. The creme brulee had a very nice custardy texture and a good, hard caramelized crust that I cracked with gusto.
Overall: Better experience than expected, and a good choice for a big group dinner without having to go to a steakhouse were the meats will be better but twice as expensive. Plus, it gets Anthony Bourdain out of my friend's system and we can go back to bigger and better things/celebrity chef chasing. Now I'm trying to drum up support for Le Bernadin =)