This has been a busy year for Alain Ducasse, with two new restaurants opening in New York, to say nothing of his ever-growing worldwide empire.
First up was Adour, which we weren’t fond of, but was fêted with three stars by both Adam Platt and Frank Bruni. For the verdict Ducasse really cares about — Michelin — we’ll have to wait till October.
To furnish Benoit, Mr. Ducasse haunted the Paris flea markets buying stuff, including an 1866 decorative ceiling painted on glass, and fixtures from a former Banque de France. A 19th-century herbal pharmacy from Bordeaux was reassembled on the second floor.
He also kept a few decorative elements from La Côte Basque. “I hoped to transfer the ambience of Benoit, not make an exact reproduction,” Mr. Ducasse said, adding that Benoit in New York cost more to build than his other new Manhattan restaurant, Adour, in the St. Regis a block away.
La Côte Basque’s former chef–owner, Jean-Jacques Rachou, told the Times that he thinks “New York is now regretting the disappearance of the classic food.”
Classics, indeed, are what dominates the menu at Benoit. Ducasse said, “Dishes like these have a history, and I have a list of 100 of them that I hope to put on the menu sooner or later. I call it my mental terroir.” The opening menu, though, runs the risk of putting the audience to sleep, with a $44 chicken for two as the signature item. I’ll be rooting for Ducasse to open up his cookbook sooner, rather than later.
I took an envious look inside last night. The restaurant was clearly open and serving “friends & family.” I am neither, and so I left Benoit for another day.