HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Is there a French restaurant that straddles the great middle?

Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 07:36 AM

My mother’s birthday is coming up next month. She’s coming to NYC and would like to have French for dinner. In the past we’ve gone to places like La Cote Basque or Le Grenouille. She doesn’t want to go to such a formal a place this time. I’ve been racking my brains for an alternative and all I can come up with are bistro type places that serve variations on typical bistro fare. Balthazar, Capsuoto Frere and the like which are too casual. I’d like to find a place that had some more contemporary French style cooking but isn’t Daniel. Is there inventive French food that isn’t served in a reverential setting? Is there anything like a NYC version of Chez l’ami Jean or even a Café des Musee? Heck I’d settle for a Joe Beef doppelganger. There was a recent NYT review of Calliope which sounded interesting but it appeared to be a bistro heavy menu. Any opinion on that as a choice? Have I just missed something in this category or am I just in a rut whenever I go for French? As to price, there’s no limit as it mom’s birthday, but to give a point of reference, I can easily see spending $150 pp on just food. Need to be able to get a table for 8 too. Any suggestions?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. strangemd RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 07:42 AM

    Take a look at La Silhouette in the 50s on the west side. The chef used to be at La Grenouille, and the food is of that caliber, while a bit less stuffy.

    3 Replies
    1. re: strangemd
      gutsofsteel RE: strangemd Oct 24, 2012 06:42 PM

      La Silhouette is not worth a visit. The food is not worthy of the place's reputation, not by a longshot.

      1. re: gutsofsteel
        strangemd RE: gutsofsteel Oct 25, 2012 12:02 PM

        You must really have fallen upon a bad night. I go there 3 or 4 times a year and find it consistently good. Certainly better than the usual bistros. Their lobster bisque is delicious, the foie gras prep is unusual and deeply satisfying, and both the sea bass and lobster dish and the morrocan-spiced lamb chops are really quite special.

        1. re: gutsofsteel
          rrems RE: gutsofsteel Oct 25, 2012 05:04 PM

          I've been there many times and had excellent meals every time. The current menu has a number of new dishes, so it has not gotten tired either.

      2. s
        Scott_C RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 07:54 AM

        The Modern Dining Room
        Cafe Boulud

        2 Replies
        1. re: Scott_C
          sgordon RE: Scott_C Oct 22, 2012 01:33 PM

          +1 for Cafe Boulud. It's better than Daniel's flagship, IMHO, even were they the same price point.

          Bouley could do the trick - they're less boisterous than Balthazar, but not as fou-fou or stuffy as the big Midtown French places (Daniel, JG, Le Bern) can be.

          Picholine (have they reopened yet?) could also be an option.

          1. re: sgordon
            Scott_C RE: sgordon Oct 22, 2012 02:14 PM

            Yes Picholine is open. Good suggestion.

        2. b
          bronwen RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 10:27 AM

          You could try that old staple, Le Veau d'Or. It's really one of a kind.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bronwen
            Sneakeater RE: bronwen Oct 22, 2012 01:32 PM

            The ancient proprietor very recently died, and I have no idea how the restaurant is doing without him.

            1. re: Sneakeater
              Nancy S. RE: Sneakeater Oct 22, 2012 02:09 PM

              Less than great.

              1. re: Nancy S.
                gavspen RE: Nancy S. Oct 22, 2012 02:16 PM

                Are you saying business has dropped off? Or the food?

              2. re: Sneakeater
                gavspen RE: Sneakeater Oct 22, 2012 02:14 PM

                Oh! What a shame....I love the "time warp" aspect of the place. Hopefully his daughter will continue on in his memory. Hope so.

            2. r
              rrems RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 10:30 AM

              La Silhouette or the Modern Dining Room.

              1. Motosport RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 11:26 AM

                Chez le Chef on Lexington in Murray Hill got a decent review in Zagat. We have not been there but it looks interesting. It may be what your mom is looking for.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Motosport
                  sgordon RE: Motosport Oct 22, 2012 01:39 PM

                  Chez le Chef is... well, there's really no describing it. It's kind of insane, a real only-in-NYC place, but it's not a celebratory birthday joint. If I had to compare it to anything it'd be Shopsin's, only Kenny Shopsin's food is better.

                2. j
                  Jersey Girl227 RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 01:39 PM

                  Have you considered Benoit on 55th? I've always enjoyed myself there. And, its one of the few places that actually feels like a higher end Bistro in Paris where Parisans actually would eat. :)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jersey Girl227
                    arepo RE: Jersey Girl227 Oct 22, 2012 04:30 PM

                    I just celebrated my anniversary at La Silhouette, which is my favorite all around NY restaurant.
                    Picholine was recently refurbished and has new life breathed into it.
                    Lincoln is also a fine dining place in Lincoln Center.

                    1. re: Jersey Girl227
                      gutsofsteel RE: Jersey Girl227 Oct 24, 2012 06:42 PM

                      Given the parameters described by the OP, I heartily second the recommendation for Benoit.

                    2. d
                      decayny RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 06:48 PM

                      I am looking for the same thing! In-laws are French and looking for an upscale modern French restaurant, not something stuffy and old-school. Am interested to see what the hounds recommend!

                      1. o
                        orthorunner RE: Bkeats Oct 22, 2012 07:18 PM

                        Agree with those who rec'd La Silhouette: while more formal than a bistro, is more casual than La Grenouille or Le Bernardin, and has a modern flair. I think it would fit your request nicely.

                        1. j
                          Jane A. RE: Bkeats Oct 23, 2012 06:18 AM

                          If you're willing to head into the East 50s, there's La Mangeoire on 53rd & 2nd. Cosy, bistro-ish, and they've also got 1/2 portions for those who'd like to eat well, but not so heavily. http://www.lamangeoire.com/menu.html
                          Other than that, you can't really go wrong with the Modern IF you like the current menu - it changes seasonally. And I've completely given up on Café Boulud. The slowest service in town.

                          1. b
                            Bkeats RE: Bkeats Oct 23, 2012 07:00 AM

                            La Silhouette looks nice. I was hoping for more creativity on the menu. Do they have many specials in addition to the set menu?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Bkeats
                              peter j RE: Bkeats Oct 23, 2012 07:56 AM

                              La Silhouette is fairly traditional with a few modern tweaks. I haven't been there in several months though.

                              Try Corton for a creative French menu.

                              1. re: peter j
                                Bkeats RE: peter j Oct 23, 2012 10:06 AM

                                Corton? Been there done that. Dining room is the opposite of warm and comfortable. More like sleek minimalism. Creativity at its limits when you can't recognize anything on the plate. Not Mom's preference.

                                1. re: Bkeats
                                  Lacrosse_Gastronomic RE: Bkeats Oct 23, 2012 10:53 AM

                                  Perhaps consider Picholine or Tocqueville for safe, accessible, but somewhat creative food and presentation,

                              2. re: Bkeats
                                Cheeryvisage RE: Bkeats Oct 23, 2012 07:58 AM

                                I'd suggest The Modern Dining Room if you want something creative and not too formal.

                                1. re: Cheeryvisage
                                  Bkeats RE: Cheeryvisage Oct 23, 2012 10:05 AM

                                  Unfortunately they don't have room for us.

                              3. n
                                NYR11 RE: Bkeats Oct 23, 2012 02:02 PM

                                If you're willing to go to the east side, La Mangeoire is fantastic and not too formal. They serve an outstanding roast chicken for two, as well as some classics like duck rillette and frisee w/ lardons. Definitely worth checking out.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: NYR11
                                  gutsofsteel RE: NYR11 Oct 24, 2012 06:43 PM

                                  I like La Mangeoire, but "fantastic" is an extreme exaggeration. It's fine for what it is, but nowhere near "fantastic."

                                  1. re: gutsofsteel
                                    rrems RE: gutsofsteel Oct 24, 2012 09:18 PM

                                    Totally agree.

                                    1. re: gutsofsteel
                                      NYR11 RE: gutsofsteel Oct 24, 2012 09:21 PM

                                      When I said it's fantastic I didn't mean it's the best restaurant in NYC. Far from it. But I happen to think it's fantastic for what it is, a more relaxed French restaurant, that's not a bistro. It could be a good option for the OP, and I think it's far better than "fine". Just an opinion tho, no need to get into semantics.

                                  2. Wilfrid RE: Bkeats Oct 25, 2012 10:52 AM

                                    Le Veau D'Or (if it's open) or La Mangeoire would be a big step down. In addition to Benoit, consider L'Absinthe.

                                    1. m
                                      mahler5 RE: Bkeats Oct 29, 2012 10:47 AM

                                      Le gigot?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mahler5
                                        Mike C. Miller RE: mahler5 Oct 29, 2012 05:33 PM

                                        I've eaten there twice in my last three trips to NYC. The first time sort of by accident. My daughter wanted to eat somewhere near by on a cold night. The next time we went, we were wanting a break for the top tables and looking for a neighborhood type place. She remembered the place and wanted to go back.

                                        Pretty good little place. Nothing out of this world, but good honest fare in a friendly atmosphere. The cassoulet was especially good, I thought. Not world class, but good, warm, stick to your ribs good on a cold night good. The salads were good and fresh, too. If I could change one thing, it would be to improve the wine list half a notch. But all things considered, I rather like it.

                                        1. re: Mike C. Miller
                                          RCC RE: Mike C. Miller Oct 29, 2012 05:46 PM

                                          Le Gigot? Not anywhere near what OP needs.

                                      Show Hidden Posts