Entries in Alain Allegretti (3)


La Promenade des Anglais

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)

Food: *½
Service: **
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½


La Petite Maison

Note: La Petite Maison closed in July 2012 after a brief, undistinguished run.

Did you ever get the sense that Sam Sifton, the New York Times critic, doesn’t like food? Perhaps that would explain why his columns waste anywhere from a third to half the space reviewing the guests, rather than the restaurant.

This was the case last week, when he awarded one star to La Petite Maison, the import from Nice that opened recently in the old townhouse (formerly owned by the Rockefellers) that was once home to Aquavit and Grayz.

The photo on the left headlined the review, suggesting that La Petite Maison is a big party that just happens to serve food. Perhaps that’s the case some evenings, but not last Thursday. Instead, we found a normal adult restaurant, doing brisk business, not unlike many successful places that get the benefit of a fair review without such a misleading photo.

Admittedly, the name’s a bit of a dodge. The bi-level house isn’t petite at all. It’s loud when full, and the tables are so tightly packed that you’ll need the agility of a belly dancer to make your way across the room. We had probably the best table in the house, a four-top in the corner, set for a couple: at least the sound came at us from two directions, rather than four.

The old Grayz décor, which will be missed by no one, was jettisoned in favor of a bright, modern-looking room with handsome, Warholesque artwork on the walls, and crisp, white tablecloths. It’s not for twentysomethings. Downtowners will despise the obvious midtown vibe, but it’s nice to see a new place that’s not a clone of ten others you’ve been to.

It is a clone of one particular place, La Petite Maison in Nice. Alain Allegretti, of the eponymous (and sadly closed) Allegretti, was brought in as consulting chef. The nature or duration of his duties is unclear, but the menu has very little of his influence. It’s mostly a carbon copy of what they serve at the mother ship. (A Provençal soup seems to be his main contribution.)

Sticker shock may be the initial reaction, with appetizers $9–22 and entrées $24–45. If you’re getting tired of the recent trend of “entrées for two,” you may be irritated that five out of fifteen entrées are in that format. There is also a separate section dedicated to truffles, wherein you can indulge your taste for truffled eggs ($45), truffled macaroni ($55), or a truffle sandwich ($85). Roasted shrimp at $42 may seem inexplicable, but you can also dine quite economically on Cesar [sic] salad for $13, or black tagliolini with shrimp and sea urchin for $24.

Indeed, more of the items are sensibly priced than not, when adjusted for midtown rents. Salade Niçoise ($15) and Zucchini Blossom Beignets ($15) were good recreations of familiar classics. Chateaubriand for two ($70) was arguably a bargain: it’s slightly better, but much more expensive at Keens ($106), and these days there aren’t many places that serve this old favorite at all. And Keens doesn’t include the wonderful side dish of mashed potatoes, which was as soft and creamy as any you’ll find.

We experienced none of the obnoxious upselling that Sam Sifton complained about. Nevertheless, there were some odd service lapses. Baguettes (very good) came in a paper bag, without butter or bread plates. The chateaubriand came with two sauces (unnanounced), which I took to be the traditional au poivre and Bearnaise. But they came in water glasses, without serving spoons: most odd. And for $70, you’d think they could actually serve the steak, rather than just dropping a skillet into the center of the table. Our server disappeared for long intervals. Apparently, they didn’t mind that we occupied our table for almost three hours.

The menu is a bit cheap-looking, and is written in slightly awkward English, but the receipt is in French. I have to assume that they intended to use French all along, and chickened out at the last minute. This strikes me as a misjudgment: those who patronize French restaurants usually want the real thing. Some diners might not know that courgette means zucchini (that’s what translations are for), but is Salade Niçoise so intimidating that it needs to be replaced with “Traditional salad of Nice”?

These may seem like small points, but this is, after all, a French restaurant, where dinner for two will exceed $100 a head, assuming you don’t drink water. The wine list isn’t long, but if it’s short on bargains, it’s well worth exploring. How many restaurants offer a 1998 Château Vannières, much less at $85?

La Petite Maison could do a better job of embracing and celebrating its Niçoise heritage. In a month or two, the party revelers that Sifton complained about will have moved on to the Next Big Thing, and we’ll be left with a comfortable, upscale French restaurant for midtown adults.

La Petite Maison (13–15 W. 54th Street between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, West Midtown)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: **
Overall: *




Note: Allegretti “closed for renovations” in summer 2010—and never re-opened.

The fall slate of restaurant openings is understandably timid. With the economy in the tank, restauranteurs are falling back on familiar formulae, and the trappings of fine dining have fallen by the wayside. How refreshing it is, then, to come across Allegretti, a new restaurant that—gasp!—has white tablecloths, servers who wear ties, an elegant atmosphere, and entrées that threaten (but don’t yet touch) the $40 mark. Has anyone told them we’re in a recession?

The chef here is Alain Allegretti, who trained under Alain Ducasse and worked at Le Cirque 2000 and Atelier. He hails from Nice, but the culinary sensibility is Italian. Prices are on the high side, with appetizers $12–20, soups $10–11, pastas $16–20, entrées $25–38 (most in the $30s), and side dishes $6–8. Fortunately, Allegretti is a startlingly good restaurant—one that I hope will be successful enough to encourage others to take similar chances. We need more restaurants like this.

The amuse-bouche was a lentil soup that was a bit too salty. Three warm breads were offered. We both chose the olive bread, which was studded with olives and came with a very yellow soft butter.


I loved the Perugina Sausage ($14; above left), which had a nice tangy taste, complemented by sweet pepers and an onion ragôut. My girlfriend was rapturous over the Heirloom Tomatoes ($19; above right), with a soft lump of burrata cheese.


Both entrées were served with a gravy applied tableside. The menu didn’t specify how the skin was treated on Duck Magret ($34; above left), but it seemed to be a kind of panko crust. The portion was ample, and the duck beautifully prepared. My girlfriend found Noix of Colorado Lamb ($32; above right) a tad too salty, but the dish was well conceived, with spinach ricotta gnocchi, prosciutto, fava beans, tomato confit, and fennel gratiné.

There was a slightly heavy hand with the salt shaker, but we think every dish here could be a winner (several are already) after the kitchen settles down.

Servers here were a bit over-eager: it seemed that hardly thirty seconds after the dessert menus were deposited, someone was back to ask us what we wanted. It was one of several times when we wished they’d just let us relax. (The restaurant, though doing well, was not full, so I don’t think they were trying to rush us out the door.) However, I prefer attentive service to the alternative, and I assume they’ll get more polished with time.

On the whole, Allegretti strikes us as the most exciting fine dining restaurant to have opened in quite some time. In an era when most restaurants are stripping away the trappings of good service, Allegretti feels like a breath of fresh air.

Allegretti (46 W. 22nd Street between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, Chelsea)

Food: **½
Service: **½
Ambiance: ***
Overall: **½