Note: As of September 2012, the restaurant is was renamed “Bistro La Promenade,” serving straightforward French bistro fare. That shift did not improve its fortunes, and it closed in January 2014. Dave Pasternack, chef of the popular Hell’s Kitchen seafood spot Esca, will be opening an Italian seafood restaurant in the space called Barchetta.
Let’s go ahead and call it Allegretti 2.0, chef Alain Allegretti’s second attempt at a midscale French Mediterranean restaurant. I loved Allegretti 1.0, but the public and a number of critics disagreed. Frank Bruni gave it a respectful two stars in The Times, but in New York, Adam Platt compared it to “eating out with my grandmother in Westchester.”
Bruni wrote the more accurate review, but Platt had the more accurate prediction of the public response. They tried removing the tablecloths and offering various specials, but it was to no avail. Two years later, Allegretti “closed for renovations,” never to re-open. The chef consulted briefly at La Petite Maison while he waited to open a new place in far west Chelsea, in the old Bette space.
At La Promenade des Anglais, Allegretti has the particulars right. The tablecloths are gone, there’s a bustling bar, and the entrées top out at $30. (They went as high as $38 at Allegretti 1.0, and that was three years ago.)
V2.0 is not as good as V1.0, but the man has to make a living, and this is the food that a French chef not named Boulud, Ripert, or Vongerichten, can serve in New York these days.
The make-over is quite attractive, including the hard surfaces New Yorkers inexplicably favor these days, making it loud when full. Two months in, the crowds are thronging. Reservations at prime times are hard to come by.
The cuisine casts a wider net than V1.0 did, ranging across the Mediterranean. The chef’s well known Provençale Fish Soup has made the journey, but there’s also a selection of pastas and other Italian classics. The menu is on the safe side, but you can’t blame the guy.
The wine list runs to about seven pages, with good choices in a wide price range. (The 2008 Domaine Poulleau Père de Fils Côte de Beaune was $52. I can’t find a comparison price online, but that struck me as fair.)
Vitello Tonnato ($18; above left) was a happy re-imagining of the classic dish, with veal sweetbreads, sushi-grade blue-fin tuna, and romaine hearts. Ratatouille Raviolini ($19; above right) stuffed with Manchego were in a spicy chorizo tomato sauce.
A salad “Mille Feuilles” ($12; above left) was another re-imagining, with the Gorgonzola crostini taking the role of the puff pastry in the traditional preparation. It was a competent, forgettable salad.
Arctic Char ($25; above right) was beautifully prepared, but I didn’t at all enjoy the clash of ingredients underneath it: duck fat potatoes, endive marmelade, and pomegranate citrus jus. The endive marmelade seemed bitter, and the potatoes undermined the lightness of the fish.
The service was more attentive than I’d expect for a restaurant this busy. I suppose it says something about modern restaurant culture that I didn’t expect it to be very good—and it was.
The Post’s Steve Cuozzo was the first of the professional reviewers to file, awarding two and a half stars. That was my rating for Allegretti 1.0. This version isn’t as good, and although the space will never be an improvement in my book, the cuisine might get there someday.
La Promenade des Anglais (461 W. 23rd St. btwn 9th & 10th Avenues, Chelsea)