The Leopard at des Artistes (long review)
My opinion of The Leopard at des Artistes: If money is no object and you are looking for a fun evening out with solid food, good mixed drinks, and good service, go. If you’re budget conscious and expect a lot of bang for your buck or a wow factor, this might not be the spot for you.
I had dinner with my husband and adult daughter at The Leopard this past Saturday, following a matinee of Anything Goes (a dazzling production that truly clicks, highly recommend).
While there were no missteps with our dinner, it is not a place I would go back to unless it’s on someone else’s tab.
Food: The bread basket was filled with Italian bread, raisin pumpernickel and breadsticks, accompanied by olive oil. The breads were standard issue, but I really liked the thin and crunchy rosemary embedded breadsticks. A server brought an amuse from the chef – hot arancini with a melty cheese lentil center. This was my favorite bite of the night.
For apps, I had the eggplant and smoked buffalo mozzarella timbale ($14). The smoky flavor really came through. The tomato sauce was luscious. My husband and daughter tried it, neither liked it, said it was mushy. They split an order of the pasta special (cheese ravioli $28). Clearly fresh made, they each got three ravioli in a bright tomato basil sauce and said it was good. We decided to order the ribsteak for two ($90) and split it among the three of us. Since this was following our Thanksgiving feast and we're still picking on the leftovers, we didn’t want a lot of leftovers from this meal. We got them anyway. The steak was very large and would have fed one more guest easily. It was accompanied by a huge mound of fries, which were standard issue, I don’t think homemade. The steak was cooked medium rare as requested but there was nothing “wow” or “mmm” about it. I’ve had better at Peter Luger’s, Keen’s, Balthazar, and my own kitchen. We finished the meal with cappuccino and complimentary pistachio biscotti. Excellent, loved them.
Drinks: My daughter had a glass of white wine ($13) which she enjoyed. My husband was in a mojito state of mind and had two of them ($16 a pop). I had a sip and it was perfect! Wonderful muddled mint and refreshing lime and spritz.
Decor and Service: Loved the restored murals and the dining room. Our main server Adrian was very professional. While we were actively (and a bit loudly) discussing whether we should order an additional entrée with the steak, he asked gently if he could offer any further explanations, which really helped. Water was always refilled and when I returned from a visit to the ladies room, a fresh refolded napkin was at my plate. The steak was presented cooked whole and carved tableside. The large bone was put on its own plate in the center of the table. Adrian offered us fleur de sel for the meat and my daughter and I happily accepted and enjoyed it.
As I first stated, there were no missteps at all. But there was nothing really to draw me back here. My current favorite New York restaurants are Balthazar and Scarpetta. Every time we dine at them there is always something that makes me say wow or go yummm! Although The Leopard is in the same price range (in the case of pasta however, it’s even higher than Scarpetta) it just didn’t have the specialness I want from this pricepoint. Glad I went there once though.
Sorry these pictures are poor quality. I don't think my new iPhone has a flash: Bread basket, arancini amuse, ribsteak and rosemary fries, cheese ravioli, eggplant mozzarella timbale, our table near a mural.
80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014
The Leopard at des Artistes
1 W 67th St, New York, NY 10023
I agree with you, the menu at Scarpetta is quite static. For that reason, I am on the hunt for something better. Just haven't found it yet (Locanda Verde was the last not quite successful contender). Your pictures of Ciano look great! We'll have to give that a whirl next time. Because I tend to be a chatterer, i don't mind restaurant noise too much unless it is extreme like the one and only time I dined at Becco. Balthazar is loud but I just adore French comfort food and service has always been so pleasant that I consider it fun noise.
Well, you know I agree with you about the noise level at Becco. Insane! Ugh! Also, seating is uncomfortably tight, and the food isn't anything to rave about.
Haven't been to Locanda Verde due to reports of a very high noise level.
Have you tried SD26? We've eaten there a few times, though not recently. The food was always excellent, and I've not heard anything to indicate that it's gone downhill.
For French, you might want to consider La Promenade des Anglais. We're huge fans of Alain Allegretti (adored his defunct eponymouse restaurant), and the food he's serving at his new La Promenade is terrific. The two times we've had dinner there, we've gone early to avoid the much higher noise level later in the evening.
La Promenade photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391@N03/sets/72157627636366157/
We have been to SD26 fairly recently and it was as good as ever. What I really like about it is that we can order all dishes as small plates, thereby having many different tastes in one meal. However, if it comes down to choosing between SD26 and Ciano, for me Ciano wins.
I really need to try Promenade des Anglais. Allegretti is a great chef.
I would not recommend Locanda Verde to you. If you sit anywhere near the bar area (and it can be hard to avoid) it's extremely loud. While I liked the food, it's not a place I've had the urge to go back to. Thanks for the SD26 and La Promenade recs. Haven't been to either, but now they're on my list. Love the pix of La Promenade...the room, the food...look really interesting to me! Thank you so much!
Thanks for the excellent review, Trish. I think overall you got it quite right. However, in my view, judging The Leopard against Scarpetta is not a fair comparison as their styles of cuisine are very different, i.e., The Leopard = traditional while Scarpetta = contemporary. I wasn't expecting any wows at The Leopard, but I was quite pleased with the solidly-prepared, very tasty food. I also prefer the ambiance at The Leopard to Scarpetta's.
We've been to Scarpetta twice, and while the food was seriously delicious, every time I think of going back and look at the menu, I'm put off but how static it is. My guess is that Scott Conant is too busy opening new restaurants and appearing on t.v. to take the time to change things up.
Right now, my favorite Italian is Ciano. We were just there the day after Thanksgiving for a family dinner, and once again, I was wowed by the food. One of the many things I love about going there is that while there are a couple of dishes that have become "signatures," Chef Shea Galante changes the menu quite often. This is his only restaurant, so he spends all his time there, and it shows.
Photos of our family dinner at Ciano: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391@N03/sets/72157628169224417/
Re: Balthazar. While the food is excellent, when it's packed, I find it way too loud and frantic.