Monday, March 24, 2008

Tres,Tres Bon...Almost

If you've ever watched (or just flipped past) the Travel Channel on TV, there's a good chance you've heard of Anthony Bourdain. Also an author, this chef seems to be everywhere right now. I was always enthralled with hearing about his exotic food experiences. I recently saw an episode of No Reservations in which he went back to his alma mater after not having cooked in a restaurant for 8 years. It was at that point that I decided it was time to finally try this notorious restaurant where he serves as Chef-at-Large...Brasserie Les Halles.

A friend of mine had a few out-of-town visitors and we were brainstorming places that we could all go for a Sunday brunch. Of course, picking a restaurant never comes without some restrictions. That Sunday was Easter Sunday, so it made getting reservations for our party of five a little trickier. We also wanted to go to a restaurant that was central to all of us. It was the perfect opportunity to head to Les Halles for its Revolutionary Brunch.

Upon entering, you really get the sense that this is an authentic French brasserie. The ambiance is lively and the dark wood walls are almost completely covered by antique French posters, giving it a great feel. We were seated at a round table, which is always nice for a larger group.

We all decided to order off the Revolutionary Brunch menu, although the full lunch menu was available as well. This prix-fixe menu includes fresh-squeezed orange juice, a croissant, and your choice of a variety of egg and crepe entrees. I ordered the Omelette Savoyarde (an omelette filled with gruyere cheese - one of my favorites), which came with the infamous French fries. Anthony Bourdain has touted them as the best in the country...and as a wannabe fry connoisseur, it was my turn to put them to the test!

Les Halles is a little pricier than your greasy spoon diner, but the quality is light years better. The eggs were all cooked to perfection...light and fluffy, and not one brown spot to be seen. The omelettes I've always gotten at diners have been overcooked, brown, and dried out. The croissant was melt-in-your-mouth good. It was flaky on the outside and buttery on the inside. So, now to the fries. They were good. Very good. The best I've ever had? I'm not so sure. But, you could tell they were made fresh and in-house, and from what I could tell were fried in peanut oil, which I always think gives fries a much better flavor.

My friends got the Ouefs Poches a l'Ecossaise (eggs benedict with smoked salmon) and the Omelette Forestiere (wild mushroom omelette). It was hysterical hearing them try to pronounce these dishes. But, I give them credit for trying!

So, my experience sounds close to perfect right? Well, here's the bad news: the service was miserable. I cut them a little slack because it was peak Sunday brunch hour and it was packed. But, these are all experienced waiters and waitresses who know what it takes to handle a rush and be a good server. Unfortunately, our server was hoping we were just stupid tourists who didn't know better (like most of the patrons that day) so he could turn the table quickly. He was rude, abrupt, and MIA most of the time. It took us 3 requests and 30 minutes to get water. But, after he put the bill on the table, he was stopping by to check up on us every 5 minutes.

All in all, I'm glad we chose Les Halles to see what all the hype was about. I did love the omelette, the fries, the croissant, and the ambiance. I just think next time I will try to go at an off-peak time in hopes of more attentive, friendly service.

Les Halles
411 Park Avenue South
b/t 28th & 29th Street
website
Menu Pages listing

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