Entries in Pierre Schaedelin (3)


Review Recap: Rye and Benoit

Today, a befuddled Frank Bruni files on Rye, awarding the expected one star:

It’s a somewhat confused and confusing enterprise, starting with the location, just far enough off any main artery to recommend some clear, possibly ostentatious signage….

But the confusion doesn’t stop at the ill-advertised entrance. Maybe because Rye hasn’t quite worked out what it really wants to be, it confronts you with too many riddles, complicating your effort to plot a coherent experience and undercutting its considerable sexiness and charms. Although it’s a restaurant worth knowing about, it’s not as simply and easily navigable as it should be.

Much of its menu promises fine dining of a relatively tame, buttoned-down sort: a beet salad with micro arugula and goat cheese; duck confit with wild mushrooms; pan-roasted halibut with haricots verts and sugar snaps; roasted chicken with spring vegetables.

But a disappointingly succinct list of wines suggests that, alternately, the real point of Rye is its cocktails, some of which come with the currently fashionable allotment of one large cube of ice, all of which can be savored at a long, gorgeous mahogany bar that visually dominates the dining room.

To that end there is, wisely, a menu category for snacks. Only here, too, nothing is quite what it appears to be. The sliders — one made with pork belly, another with short rib — are in fact closer to full-fledged sandwiches. And a meatloaf sandwich listed with them is a snack the way Godzilla is a garden lizard.

We agree with Bruni that restaurants sometimes need to do a better job of indicating what’s a snack and what’s an entrée, but was that really the best meme for this review? The emphasis on cocktails rather than wine is hardly a novelty these days.

Why did he bother to review this place? We assume it’s boredom. In the end, most of the dishes he likes are salad and bar snacks. There are a hundred places like this in Manhattan. Had it been on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge, we doubt he would have bothered.

* * *

Julia Moskin returns to Benoit, finding it much as we did: improved under new chef Pierre Schaedelin, but still phoning in the service:

Last year, Alain Ducasse brought in the chef Pierre Schaedelin to upgrade this New York branch of his bistro empire. Mr. Schaedelin has sharpened the flavors, improved the desserts, and broadened the menu until it now has many of the true pleasures of Paris — though it’s still shadowed by mindless service à la Midtown….

But there is a hint of airline food in the blandly rich repetition and limp sides of “mixed vegetables,” and more than a hint of highway robbery in $11 cold tomato soup and the aforementioned choucroute.

Benoit gives a warm welcome at the door and cheery wine service, but waiters seem to hope that dinner customers will leave early and stay away forever. A cold entree was reheated and sent back shrunken and overcooked.

Thus ends Alain Ducasse’s last, best chance to get the Times back to Benoit.



Note: This is a review under Chef Pierre Schaedelin, who left the restaurant in October 2010. Click here for a review under his replacement, the former Payard and Balthazar chef, Philippe Bertineau.


We returned to Benoit last Saturday—our third visit (past reviews here, here). The good news is that Benoit is doing well: it was as crowded as I’ve seen it since the opening weeks, this time last year. The bad news is that the service was slow, with long waits even for basic things, such as getting a wine list.

To start, we shared the charcuterie platter with cornichons and Dijon mustard ($42; below). Though nominally a serving for two, our group of three was unable to polish it off. Only at Bar Boulud have we seen a charcuterie assortment this good, this varied. I’m hard pressed to say which is better.

Unfortunately, that left us not very hungry for our main courses (not the restaurant’s fault). My girlfriend had the Steak aux Poivres ($38) and my mother the trio of Colorado Lamb ($36). Both struck us as competently done without being, in any sense, special.

The Braised Pork Shank ($21; above) was a fascinating dish, unlike anything I have ever seen. It was a hefty hunk of smoked ham, braised on the bone and flaked with a spicy mustard sauce. I am not a fan of smoked ham and probably wouldn’t have ordered it if I had realized how it was prepared—the menu just said “pork.” However, the dish was beautifully prepared, and I cannot really fault anything except the description.

Benoit is still uneven, but for its best items, the restaurant is well worth a return visit. The slow service dismayed us, but I am hoping we caught them on a bad night.

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



Note: Click here for a more recent review of Benoit.

After mostly horrendous reviews at Benoit, Alain Ducasse demoted executive chef Sebastien Rondier to chef de cuisine late last year. His new boss is Pierre Schaedelin, formerly of Le Cirque, who had been Martha Stewart’s personal chef for the last two years. We liked Benoit (earlier review here), but the negative critical reaction was unmistakable.

A friend and I had dinner at Benoit the other night, my first visit since Schaedelin’s arrival. In a brief interview for TONY last week, Schaedelin spoke about some of the new menu items. One of them is a choucroute garnie ($32), a weekly special served on Thursdays. It’s an enormous plate of sumptuous sausages and cured meats served over sauerkraut. We skipped appetizers, and I still did not finish it. My friend had the Cassoulet ($26), which she graded B+. A cheese plate ($17) was also quite good.

Business was slow. When we left at around 7:40 p.m., there were still tons of empty tables. Service was attentive, and managers came by several times to ask if we were enjoying ourselves—a trend I’ve observed at numerous restaurants lately. If they’re looking to make improvements, transferring bar tabs to the table would help. I asked, but the bartender shrugged: “It’s too late. I already entered it in my system.”

The menu has changed considerably, and it is no longer presented inside a picture frame that takes up half the table. We didn’t have French Fries this time, but I noted that they’re no longer served “L’Ami Louis style.” Given the disaster they were before, it has to be an improvement.

It’s still early in Schaedelin’s tenure, but I like what I see so far. Benoit deserves more attention than it is getting.

Benoit (60 West 55th Street between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, West Midtown)

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