Note: Bette closed in June 2008.
There is no particular reason to visit Bette. Proprietress Amy Sacco, who had made her name in the nightclub industry, tried to transfer her success to a restaurant, which she named after her mother—the name rhymes with “sweaty.”
That was two years ago, when Bette was a hot ticket. Today, you can get a table anytime you want. Bette’s proverbial fifteen minutes are up. We were half-an-hour late, but it might have been half-a-day. It really didn’t matter. On a Saturday night in August, we nearly had the place to ourselves. I suppose Amy and her friends had decamped to the Hamptons.
In the New York Times, Frank Bruni awarded a remarkably generous one star, but he admitted it was mostly about the celebrity scene. “Bette clearly means to make a splash, its food isn’t remotely splashy.” He got that right.
The kitchen has gotten lazy in its old age. The whole menu was something like half-a-dozen appetizers and an equal number of entrées—all rather ordinary stuff. Frank Bruni found “a bevy of interesting selections” on the wine list, but that list has now shrunk to about two pages. For the record, we settled on a sangria-like rosé (label below), at a budget-friendly $30.
Asparagus salad (left); Pork chop (right)
An Asparagus Salad ($12) was totally forgettable, as was a Pork Chop ($26). My girlfriend had the same reaction to a Hamachi Ceviche ($16) and Short Ribs ($25). While all competently prepared and unobjectionable, nothing at Bette really rose above the ordinary.
The service hit two of my pet peeves. After we sat down, the server asked, “Will you be having bottled watered this evening?” It’s a minor point, but do they really think you’ll forget that tap water is an option?
Bread rolls had no doubt been baked the night before, but they were served without separate plates or knives. After the appetizer plates were cleared, the server had to come along and clear up all the crumbs.
There was nothing particularly bad about Bette, but when you’re spending almost $120 for dinner (including tax, before tip), you want to taste at least something that goes beyond the ordinary, and Bette didn’t have it.
Bette (461 W. 23rd Street just east of Tenth Avenue, Chelsea)