I had anticipated dining at Les Halles for quite some time, not merely because of its well-known “chef-at-large,” Anthony Bourdain, but because of its deserving reputation of preparing quality American beef in a French style.
From Park Avenue, I was instantly struck by the charm and inviting nature of the beautifully placed globe street lamps and outdoor seating; very reminiscent of those you may find on a French street corner.
I booked a reservation prior to my visit and was promptly seated upon my arrival with a very healthy appetite. Within a minute of being seated my fellow dining companion and I were greeted by our server who presented both of our menus and a substantial wine list. We opted out of wine for the evening and immediately placed our premeditated orders.
For my first course I ordered the Gratinée de Halles (a classic onion soup), followed by a main course of Moules Marinière ou Portugaise, Frites (mussels cooked in a white wine based broth and French fries). My dinner companion ordered the Planche de Grillades which consisted of thick-cut bacon, a lamb chop, hanger steak, merguez (a spicy lamb sausage), a pork sausage, frites (French fries) and Provençal dressing.
I have to immediately start by saying everything was good; however, there were a few things that deserve honorable mention. Firstly, the Gratinée de Halles was holistically a satisfactory experience but the Gruyère cheese that so generously blanketed the top of the dish was outstanding. The Gruyère was rich, creamy, and full-bodied with a very light hint of nutty flavor. Secondly, the Planche de Grillades was a pretty good selection for a first-time patron who wants a taste of everything; however, the thick-cut bacon was absolutely delicious and in my personal opinion managed to outshine the other parts of the platter. The bacon had a perfect balance of smoky and sweet flavor and wasn’t at all overly salty or offensively satiated by fat, contrary to what bacon has become to the average American. Last, but not least the French fries were quite addictive and I was in awe of their unique crispiness and pronounced Yukon potato flavor. It comes as no surprise that the French fries are an award-winning feature of the menu.
The service that we received was impeccable but can only be accredited to the hard-working food runners and busboys. Our water glasses were always full, our tables always cleared of unnecessary clutter and as if that wasn’t enough, I was chased down by a busboy on Park Avenue after leaving Les Halles with a pair of gloves I had dropped in the restaurant. Yes, it was a very casual, affordable, and an appreciated experience, indeed.
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