In today’s Times, Florence Fabricant reports that traditional French restaurants are making a comeback (“There’ll Always Be a France, Especially in New York”).
- Daniel Boulud has just opened Bar Boulud, with a classic French bistro and charcuterie menu.
- Later this month, Alain Ducasse will open Benoit in the former La Côte Basque space. Ducasse already opened another French restaurant this year, Adour, in the former Lespinasse space.
Next Monday, Brasserie Cognac opens in West Midtown. Rita Jammet, who owned La Caravelle, is on hand as a consultant.
What’s notable is not merely that these restaurants have a nod to the French tradition, but that many of them are overtly traditional, serving the old standards (lobster thermidor, cassoulet, duck à l’orange) that were considered dinosaurs a short while ago.
Bouley told Fabricant, “I see traditional food coming back. It’s also newly popular in France, and it’s great to see. I have an emotional connection to that food, to my grandmother’s cooking: some of my family comes from Arras and Tours. And I love the tradition — braising rabbits and boning fish tableside, but in a relaxed atmosphere.”
These new restaurants lack the “jacket-and-tie mandatory” atmosphere of their “Le” and “La” predecessors, but in many other ways they’re throwbacks.
I, for one, am delighted. It’s not that these restaurants are uniformly excellent. I love some of them (Le Périgord, Le Veau d’Or) and have been underwhelmed at others (La Grenouille, Adour). It’s just fascinating to see that restauranteurs are giving New Yorkers something different by giving them something traditional.
Frank Bruni, who usually finds French food so dull, is going to have to brush up on Escoffier.