Most everyone knows all about New York Restaurant Week (which kicks off next Monday), but did you know that there’s also a French Restaurant Week? Founded in 2011 and corresponding with Bastille Day — which celebrates French independence — the promotional event lasts from July 13-19th this year, and feature over 120 participating restaurants offering special menus throughout New York and Chicago. So where should you go for your Steak au Poivre and Moules Frites? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt if their name starts with a “Le,” like the hallmark Le Perigord in Midtown East, or the hip Le Fond in Brooklyn!
Le Perigord: Talk about a classic: This 50-year-old fine dining staple — it opened in its elegant midtown location in 1964 — offers tableside service of highly traditional dishes like Dover Sole and Duck a l’orange, as well as Escoffier-approved fare, such as Pike Quenelles in champagne sauce, Lobster Thermidor, Beef Wellington and Foie Gras Terrine. And be sure to save room for their infamous “Temptation Trolley,” a rolling cart of Tarte Tatin, Chocolate Mousse, Floating Islands and more. Need we say more?
Le Rivage: Conveniently situated along Restaurant Row in the Theatre District, this 30-year-old, family-run bistro offers affordable, but highly refined pre and post-show prix fixes — think appetizers like Frisee aux Lardons, Frogs Legs and Onion Soup, Entrees such as Ratatouille, Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon, as well as desserts such as Bread Pudding with crème anglaise, all for the exceedingly low price of $39.
Le Fond: Decidedly more casual than Le Perigord or Le Cirque, this Greenpoint Brooklyn newcomer is run by a laid back Maine native. But considering chef Jake Eberle’s serious pedigree (he graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, interned at La Roche Le Roy, and worked under Rick Laakkonen for eight years), you can be sure the food is entirely top notch. In fact, Le Fond has drawn consistent raves for its textbook Cassoulet, topped with duck confit flavored with juniper berries, housemade pork and fennel sausage, and slow roasted Berkshire pork belly.
Le Philosophe: One of the first restaurants to help spark New York’s current French food renaissance, the three-year-old Le Philosophe wholeheartedly embraces the traditional French culinary canon — although it dials back the butter and cream quotient just a tad. Conceived by opening chef Matthew Aita (who recently left), Lobster Thermidor is steamed instead, and just lightly drizzled with béarnaise, and portion control is exercised on otherwise hefty feeds like Blanquette de Veau and Duck a l’orange. Thankfully, the food is just as good when this gem first opened.
L’Antagoniste: Le Philosophe’s little sister, this coquettish bistro has really shaken things up in Bed Stuy; by serving Poulet Roti directly across from a Crown’s Fried Chicken. And like its predecessor, it unapologetically offers real French warhorses, like Soufflé Fromage (a puff of nutty compte), Tournedos Rossini, and Charlotte Russe; ladyfingers lined with fruit puree and custard.
Le Cirque: The venerable Le Cirque continues to serve celebrities, socialites, and other New York hoi polloi under a giant, abstract “big top” in the main dining room. And while a revolving roster of talented chefs have effectively modernized the menu over the years, traditionalists can always seek out Le Cirque classics, such as Lobster Salad, Pasta Primavera, Crème Brulee, and the famous potato-wrapped Paupiette of Black Bass, invented by renowned alum, Daniel Boulud.
405 E 52nd St., btwn. FDR Drive & 3rd Ave.
340 W 46th St., btwn. 8th & 9th Aves.
105 Norman Ave., btwn. Eckford St & Manhattan Ave.
55 Bond St., btwn. Bowery & 2nd St.
238 Malcolm X Blvd., btwn. Hancock St & Jefferson Ave.
151 E 58th St., btwn. Lexington & 3rd Aves