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Jan 14, 2012 11:58 AM

La Promenade des Anglais - Dinner Report

For the photos accompanying this write-up, please see:

Alain Allegretti’s new La Promenade des Anglais has been on my radar for a while. When Scoutmob offered a $20 coupon back in December, I snagged one. Last night, I dined at the restaurant for the first time with a friend. When we arrived at 6:30pm for our reservation, the dining room was already 70% full and abuzz with activities.

After placing our orders and as always, declining alcohol, a nice bread basket arrived, the breads warm and crusty. Being an olive bread fan, I, predictably, chose the olive baguette first and split it with my companion. Given the cuisine of the restaurant, the breads were served with olive oil, instead of butter.

Prosciutto and Clam Croquettes – Espelette chili oil
We started off with the most excellent Prosciutto and Clam Croquettes. At first, I tried to pick these up with my fork because I didn’t want to get my hands greasy since I was handling a camera throughout the meal. No go, the croquette was so soft and almost liquid in the center that the moment my fork pierced the crisp outer shell, the entire sphere fell apart. Despite this initial mishap, I have to say this was one of the best bites of fried bread dough I’d ever had and it turned out, this was my favorite dish of the meal. The diced clams, prosciutto, and whatever seasonings that went into the croquette were a delight on the taste buds. A perfect savory start.

Frog Legs Provençale – Garlic cream
We couldn’t resist ordering the frog dish. I haven’t eaten frogs in ages and have never had them done the French/Provençale way. While I thought the dish tasted great, the garlicky cream sauce usurped the more delicate taste of the frog legs. The frog legs became the medium for the cream sauce to shine, instead of the other way around like it should be. My friend’s comment, “You know… I couldn’t even tell this was frog.”

Provençale Fish Soup – Garlic croutons, Gruyère, classic rouille
This was where our opinions regarding the food diverged. We ordered this because the fish soup was supposed to be the chef’s signature dish, however, I was underwhelmed. First, the soup tasted under-salted. Good thing the bread here was served with salt, I took thorough liberties with it. After the soup was salted to my satisfaction, I still wasn’t wowed. The soup certainly tasted of oceany fish, but was it really worth being called a signature dish? I’m not sure. However, when I told my friend that I thought the soup bland, she looked surprised and thought it was perfectly good. So there you have it.

Trofie – Heirloom tomatoes, capers, olives, lemon, ventresca tuna
Oh, this was fantastic! The pasta was perfect al dente with a great chew. The capers, olives, and the tomato sauce tasted like ocean breeze. As if that was still not oceany enough, the canned tuna belly strips, so fleshy and tasty, helped create a symphony of flavors and textures. Of course this was no ordinary canned tuna, but I was still surprised that canned tuna could be so delicious. Love.

Apple Tart – Ricotta almond gelato
The ice cream was lovely and the almond flakes delicious. Unfortunately, these were all the good things I could say about our Apple Tart. The apple slices were mostly bitter. The bitterness was not to the point of being unpleasant, but definitely tasted strange. Alas.

La Promenade des Anglais was somewhat of a mixed bag for me judging from one meal. The Prosciutto and Clam Croquettes and the Trofie were the standout dishes of the evening. I would not order the Fish Soup or the Apple Tart again. The restaurant was super busy on a Friday evening. The music choice that evening consisted mostly of pop/club dance songs. And since the restaurant was packed full, the noise level was considerable. This is not the place to go for a quiet, relaxing evening that’s for sure. However, if you want an energetic, lively restaurant to unwind for the night, La Promenade fits the bill.

La Promenade des Anglais
461 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011

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  1. The pop/club dance songs, on top of the noise level, just eliminated this restaurant for me. Too bad.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Yeah, the music choice was rather unfortunate. Once during the meal, I overheard the manager asking their staff to turn down the music because a customer complained. The volume barely went down.

      My friend told me though, "I like the music here." Haha.

    2. Excellent report, Cheeryvisage. And, as usual, exquisite photos -- with the new camera, I presume?

      I am sorry to hear that it was a mixed experience with regard to the food. We've been there twice and haven't had any duds. In fact, everything has been delicious.

      I am well aware of the extremely high noise level. The first time we went was right after they first opened. It was early on a Sunday evening, the room never quite filled up, and there were ony a few people at the bar. Thus, the noise level remained comfortable. The second time was also on a Sunday. Again, we purposely went early, and even though all the tables did become occupied, there were very few people at the bar, and the noise level wasn't terribly high. My guess is that a packed bar area + full tables raise the noise level so subsantially that it becomes uncomfortably high -- at least, it would be for me. And in his review where he gave La Promenade two stars, Wells even commented about the noise situation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RGR

        Thanks, RGR! Yes, these were taken with my new camera. I'm glad the pictures turned out well.

        I read Pete Wells's review before eating at the restaurant. I think the restaurant might have changed its menu recently. A lot of the dishes that Wells recommended were no longer on the menu.

        The service, by way, was very good. Even though this is a more casual tableclothes-less restaurant, the servers here are perfectly cordial and professional.

        I guess the restaurant can't do anything about the noise level short of renovating the space. But really, the club music choice isn't a great idea. This is a restaurant, not a night club afterall.

      2. i've been there three times so far...solo at the bar, in a party of three, and in a party of two...while i agree there are some hits and misses, overall i've been very happy w/ the food, esp the fried artichokes...i also like the lentil soup and beet salad...i'm on the fence on the fish soup: i thought it was seasoned decently, but i think it's a small portion for the cost (odd because overall this is a modestly priced restaurant) and i prefer the fish soup at Cercle Rouge in Tribeca...

        As Wells noted, the wine list is extremely reasonable and i've had that same Languedoc rose for 10 dollars (for a quartino) two of the three times...

        re: noise-level/music, the first two visits were on a Monday and Tuesday and i didn't find the place particularly loud...the third visit was a week ago Saturday and it was packed, but we had a cozy booth and didn't have noise issues...i don't remember club-type music on any of the visits...

        Cheeryvisage, sidenote re: tuna ventresca -- Whole Foods sells the Tonnino brand in a 190g jar packed in olive oil for 7.99 -- it's one of the staple foods in my cupboard and works well in pastas, salads, w/ whole grain bread, etc...the 8 bucks seems steep at first, but w/ some Greenmarket bread and a small salad, it's a delicious snack for two, for total food cost of about 10 bucks...and, it's a very satisfying (and economical) alternative to going out to dinner when added to pasta: lately i've been sauteeing shallots/carrots/basil in olive oil, then adding wholegrain farro pasta and the tuna ventresca to the pan at the end, w/ some rock salt and pepper...

        La Promenade des Anglais
        461 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011

        3 Replies
        1. re: Simon

          Ah, out of the 3 dishes that you enjoyed, only the artichokes are still on the menu.

          Useful to know the noise level is manageable earlier in the week. Yes, the club music is rather strange. Maybe it's just a Friday thing.

          Thanks for the note about the tuna. Very good to know that this can be easily bought retail. It really was delicious.

          1. re: Cheeryvisage

            The ventresca also caught my eye; the red cartons of Ortiz cans are stacked in my pantry!

            Here is the recipe:

            CV: Your photos are beautiful; I'm sure you've been asked before, but what kind of camera did you use?

            1. re: erica

              Oooh, thanks for the link to the recipe!

              I recently got a new camera. This thread is the first time I took photos using the new camera, a Nikon D5100 DSLR. The camera I used before was a Samsung TL500 point-and-shoot. All of the meal reports I posted on Chowhound before this one were shot using the Samsung.

        2. Four of us had dinner at La Promenade last night, and like Cheeryvisage, I found it a mixed bag with regard to both food and service. I really loved the fish soup - it was perfectly balanced, flavor-wise, and I thought the portion was actually quite generous. Perhaps adjustments have been made in the past month. I was also impressed by my French 75 cocktail, which was lovely. But I was underwhelmed by the bread. The brioche-y looking thing was bland and character-less, and and the olive oil didn't have much oomph (I like an oomphier olive oil). Somewhat hilariously, our dish of salt had about 9 grains of salt in it. Dunno what happened there, but luckily no one felt the need to salt anything. My companions were thrilled by the prosciutto and clam croquettes, so much so that my SO tried to trick me into eating one by telling me it didn't taste like prosciutto (which I don't eat). I refused to be swayed and stuck to the whipped ricotta, which was nice but nothing special. It's also worth noting that we got only three little pieces of grilled bread with that cheese and had to ask the bus person for a refill. If a dish is "for the table," and there are four people at the table...

          I had another appetizer for my main course, the king crab, a very pretty dish. The taste of the crab was so delicate that it barely registered, so it was fortunate that the supporting players on the plate - blood orange sauce, celeriac remoulade - were there to punch things up a bit. I also tasted the skate, which was a little too salty but otherwise quite good, and the tiny artichokes it came with were a treat.

          So. The service. It could not have been warmer. It could, however, have been a bit more polished. The place was absolutely packed, so I certainly forgave the 15ish minute wait past our reservation time, and the almost interminable pace of the courses. But the bartender could have come over in a timelier fashion. The host could have delivered a drink list along with the menus so the server didn't have to do it (after we'd been cooling our heels at the table for a while). And said server could have alerted us immediately to the fact that the zucchini flower beignets were unavailable since they were out of season. He also dashed off to make sure the kitchen hadn't run out of the ratatouille raviolini (it hadn't), took too long to return, and then had to come back yet again to deliver the sad news that the branzino was all gone. But he was, otherwise, an absolute peach.

          I'd go back once the hype simmers down and the crowds thin. The noise level is extremely high - if the music was awful, I didn't notice since I couldn't even hear it. It is a solidly two-star place; I guess I was hoping for just a little more.

          La Promenade des Anglais
          461 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011

          5 Replies
          1. re: small h

            Thanks for the report. Looks like the prosciutto and clam croquettes are consistent and a definite winner.

            It sounds like the restaurant was very crowded even on a Monday. Or did it have anything to do with being the day before Valentine's Day and people having early Valentine's dinner? I guess for the noise-sensitive, Sunday may be the best time to eat there?

            1. re: Cheeryvisage

              If you want to go when it's actually quiet, that would be lunch, which was our most recent meal there. Funny thing is, we make it our business not to go to places participating in RW and didn't realize that La Promenade was. Even so, there were only a half dozen table occupied. A staff member told us that lunch is always very slow. Brunch, however, is usually jammed.

              Photos of our lunch at La Promenade:


              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                It didn't look like a Valentine's Day Eve crowd to me, in that the room wasn't dominated by couples as far as I could tell. But it's certainly possible that the place was uncharacteristically full because of the date.

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  My partner and I just dined at La Promenade on Sunday, and it was indeed more quiet. The food was excellent, as on our previous visit, but we enjoyed it more without the excessive noise (not to say it wasn't lively, just not overwhelmingly loud). We particularly enjoyed the wild boar chop Milanese style and the veal medallions.

                2. re: small h

                  Good assessment Small H. Sounds like I'm not the only one that likes the croquettes, you should have tried them ;-) Here is something I wrote up a couple months ago on LPDA, thought I'd share:

                  Nice is nice! What better time than dead-of-winter to open a New York restaurant that seeks to recreate the vibe and atmosphere of the sundrenched capital of the French Riviera. It’s in these cold, dark months that New Yorkers crave the sounds of crashing blue waves, clinking glasses of chilled rosé, bleating overfed seagulls, bronzed children playing in the sand… ok, maybe no enfants terribles, but pinstriped beach cabanas with cocktail service? Now we’re talking! That’s the kind of tableau in which we like to thaw out, and that’s the one being hawked at La Promenade Des Anglais. A fitting name for a restaurant specializing in Niçois cooking, being that it’s named after the main beachfront drag in Nice, dotted with warm, breezy dining rooms serving much the same fare as Chef Alain Allegretti’s new Chelsea destination. Or maybe the tie-in is that the name means “the promenade of the British”, and is housed in the ground floor of the odious, gargantuan London Towers apartment complex. Or maybe the promenade reference is to the nearby Highline? It doesn’t matter, because now even us common folk can afford to eat from Allegretti’s kitchen without pawning off any firstborn enfants.

                  Opened quietly this past September, the eatery is run by a guy who has helmed the kitchens in Michelin-starred spots all over France and Monaco, learned the trade from Alain Ducasse, and made a mark in New York in Sirio Maccioni’s Le Cirque 2000, not to mention his own namesake Flatiron eatery Allegretti, which unfortunately shuttered in the summer of 2010. It took him a while to get back in the mix, but it was well worth the wait - this badass toque had to turn up sooner or later. In related news, Allegretti has also embarked on a new venture to open another Riviera-themed restaurant called Azure in the forthcoming Revel mega-casino in Atlantic City. Potentially flirting with sellout-land? Nous verrons… don’t be beckoned by the dark side of the epicurean Force, Alain…

                  Set on a somewhat desolate stretch of West 23rd Street, La Promenade Des Anglais is rather unassuming in its presence, announcing itself with no more than a simple white awning. Walking in, the smartly dressed desk staff rolls out a very warm and accommodating welcome as they take your coats and show you to the bar. The bartenders are sharp and on-point. Wet your whistle with some pre-dinner ‘tails as you settle in from the cold. The Lavender Lemonade ($14) is a mix of lavender-infused vodka, lavender honey, and lemon. It’s well portioned in a tall highball glass and garnished with a lemon peel. The bitterness and sweetness of the lemon hits first, and the lavender follows sequentially and smooths it out. You want your lavender drink for the purple visual, but you don’t get it. Relax, it’s still a great drink. The Pumpkin Divine ($14) blends Pear Williams, pumpkin butter, triple sec, simple syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon into an excellent wintery elixir. The eau de vie leads, and it’s strong like King Kong. The cinnamon bark garnish finishes it. It’s a somewhat small pour, but take it easy, baller - there’s wine coming with dinner.

                  Get your tab transferred to the table (yes, they do that… merci Alain) and get a better look at the ecosystem as you are whisked to your table. A prevailing light blue theme is interspersed with dark wood tones and fluted glass panes. Two robust dark wood art deco columns support a ceiling that is frescoed with images of the beach (sand, umbrellas, fedoras), which of all the design elements, could have probably been deep-sixed. Inviting blue velvet banquettes flank tables that are well lit, despite the room being relatively dark. Red sconces add contrast. Stand-alone tables are predominantly spaced at a generous twenty inches. Everything is wrapped in a tastefully subliminal San Tropez-y nautical theme, with brass boat railings, curved mirrors that look like they came off a yacht, and brass-railed shelving like you would see at the Eden Roc Hotel. The room has a richness to it, but it’s not heavy. The early clientele is a demure and forty-something downtown mix, which seems to young up a bit for later seatings, but not by much. The staff is looking neat, but not stuffy, in cool uniforms – open collars with ties, slacks with sneakers.

                  Provençale placemats are set in lieu of white linen, a preliminary testament to Allegretti’s somewhat more casual intentions for this new space. The breadbasket is filled with hot and house-made olive baguettes and whole-grain mini-loaves that are accompanied by seasoned olive oil and sea salt. Fresh and crispy but a bit bland. Dommage.

                  The lineup of openers is aimed squarely at the Côte d'Azur.

                  The tuna crudo ($16) is quite fresh, and of high quality. Its composition is mild and moderate, and it won’t play out your palate. The heart of palm is presented unusually, cut vertically, and binds well with the acidity of the lemon juice drizzled upon it. There’s too much peppercorn here, and the heart of palm could be more copious.

                  The South of France’s tables are dominated by the region’s ubiquitous fish soup, served here ($14) in a slightly untraditional way – with the rouille and grated cheese served atop the bread crisps. The rouille itself is also a bit unusual, resembling a chickpea mash more than the bright orange garlicky sauce that’s so prevalent in Nice. The soup itself could have more poppy tangy zip, leaving a somewhat soapy feeling after each bite, but is more or less true to form. Beware: provençale fish soup is purposely quite fishy in taste – you have to be into that.

                  The prosciutto and clam croquettes ($12) are one of the highlights of the menu. Little nugs of Frenchified lovin’ is what they are. They are fried, but not too oily. A bite breaks the crispy outer layer into a dense, rich, delicious filling that eats like a clam soup custard. The odd bit of prosciutto adds some meaty solids and drives it home. Everything is balanced well with a fairly dominant and fiery espelette chili oil. Keep ‘em coming, Chef.

                  The whipped ricotta ($9) is another highlight, but where’s the advertised thyme? No matter, the honey and crunchy slabs of peasant bread make for the perfect vehicle. This is not your typical ricotta – is has an almost cottage cheese-y makeup, but is realized beautifully.

                  The octopus a la plancha ($16) is of perfect texture, and is fresh as can be. The subtle fennel is a great touch. It sits on a bed of a chickpea medley that feels like a fancy summer picnic salad, not too citrusy or oily in deference to the two segments of mollusk legs resting above it. The Domain Pierre Duret 2010 sauvignon blanc ($15) is a perfect pairing here, heaping loads of melon, grass and fresh-cut flowers into the mix.

                  The plating of the entrees is synchronous and timed correctly.

                  The striped bass ($28) is earthy, of a beautiful color, and presented exquisitely… but intimidating to approach through the stringy crisps piled too high onto it. Once you get in there, there is lots of texture going on here between the topping, the crisp skin and the succulent meat. The accompanying fondant potatoes are mushy and over salted - meh. The crispy breaded mussel on the plate was fantastic, but only served as a tease – don’t hurt me like that. More now please. Overall this dish could have come through much stronger with some minor tweaks.

                  The arctic char ($25) is happier than the striped bass. Although it doesn’t stand alone as well, it’s a slam dunk with the accompanying pomegranate seeds and sassy citrus zings. The grapefruit makes it curious but not overpoweringly so. The rustic duck fat potatoes are lovely and a welcome touch, as is the endive marmalade.

                  The farrotto ($22) is an inventive ‘risotto’ made of farro, a wheat grain popular in Italy and southern France. It follows the same cooking path as rice-based risotto, and it’s finished with olive oil to drive home the Mediterranean-ness, but the real gems are the veal cheeks that are served on top – they fall apart like short ribs and are a novel and tasty mate to the grainy farro.

                  The duck breast ($29) is tender, delicious and sweet due to a lovely honey glaze, which is in turn balanced by a pretty cool counterpoint - port jus. The presentation is one of the best on the menu, and is accompanied with a new discovery – a strain of green “Du Puy” lentils from France that carry their own DOC appellation, like a fine wine. Firm, dense and packed with flavor. The Domaine le Colombier 2009 Vacqueyras grenache ($15) makes for a clean and rich pairing here, adding mushroom and blueberry notes.

                  Save room for dessert.

                  The butternut squash pound cake ($10) is another unexpected find on this menu. This is Thanksgiving incarnated in dessert form. Its two slices deliver laser beams of cinnamon, orange, hazelnut, and brown butter from within its dense consistency. The zucca gelato zaps you with an icy cold element.

                  The warm chocolate fondant ($10) is a ganache lover’s dream. It’s a soft chocolate hockey puck filled with molten chocolate magma, and topped with blueberry coulis and crunchy stracciatella gelato. Chocolate freaks: just skip the foreplay and order two. Don’t front. The Domaine de Beaumalric Muscat de Beaumes De Venise 2009 ($9) is the desert wine to pair here, adding an embracing flavor profile instead of sweetness.

                  Overall the experience here is high in quality and authenticity. The room is transporting, and the staff does an excellent job of supporting the sun kissed Gallic fantasy from start to finish. There is passion infused into the food that you eat here, that much is evident. Is this a date place for people in their twenties? No. Is it where you bring Mom and Dad? Also no. This is a sedate yet bustling dining room that is brushed with a civility from a different, yet somehow familiar, part of the world… one that we would certainly rather be in, during the doldrums of a New York winter. The pricing and environment don’t necessarily make a statement for you one way or the other, making this your next neutral rendezvous with out-of-towners or casual business acquaintances.

                3. I recently came back from the real Promenade des Anglais, in Nice. The Trofie pasta, sounds good but also sounds like salade Nicoise with pasta. Nothing else sounds like anything I had in Nice.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    The Trofie's tomato, olive, caper sauce is pretty strong so I wouldn't say it's Nicoise salad w/ pasta. The canned tuna belly is only 2-3 thin slices.

                    The brandade crostini and prosciutto & clam croquettes are winners. I'd be happy to sit at the bar and just eat those, and maybe the braised rabbit w/ pacchero.