Thursday, February 23, 2012

Frenchie: Les Halles Park Ave.

I was in NYC for a conference last week and decided to meet up with some friends for dinner one night. JB suggested Anthony Bourdain's famous restaurant, Brasserie Les Halles for French cuisine. I'll admit that I've never seen his show (No Reservations) or know too much about him, but I immediately replied with "OKAY!!" because I have never had French before. Ever. So in one night, I tried: escargot, foie gras, magret de canard, crêpe suzette... it was like love in Paris!

Half price wine on Mondays, why go on any other night?

I usually don't order fancy, schmancy wine, or any type of alcohol during dinnertime (with the exception of Happy Hour), but it's 50% off on Mondays! And taking after my mother, I really can't resist a good deal. Call me cheap or a discount monster, but I'm proud to save $10 on this $20 bottle of wine! It was crisp and fruity, but I couldn't finish my glass because I'm a total lightweight. 

Gratinee de Halles ($9)

The famous onion soup was something JB had to order and while I did not get a taste of it, he seemed to have enjoyed it. Every last spoonful of it! 

Escargot ($9), Foie Gras ($19.50), Salad ($10)

The arugula salad on the right was not too special, but the apple slices and walnuts just enhanced the flavor of the handful of arugula leaves on the plate. I kept pushing my friends to eat everything together, "You have to eat this with the apple & walnut together in ONE BITE!" Why do they only give you one or two pieces of deliciousness i.e. three apple slices & a couple walnuts (or two figs & fried goat cheese balls from Tinto) with a ton of green leaves? Someone should tell them to change their ratio of green leaves and yummy toppings for a salad! Oh yeah, there was brie on the side too, but that's one cheese I'm not a big fan of. Heard it's amazing with apples though...

These snails were so big, plump, and juicy!

This was really unexpected for me. I've had little snails before that are still inside the shell and you need a toothpick to pick out the meat in order to eat it. Fun, fun. So of course when I saw these big shell-less snails, I had this "What the heck are those?" expression on my face. Each filled hole on the dish reminded me of half a 皮蛋 (century or thousand-year egg) because of the garlic, herb sauce that the snail was swimming in. The sauce was amazing and the snails were so plump and juicy! I've always had a liking for snails, but the way they prepared it here took it to another level: LOVE. I highly recommend it, even if you think snails are gross... it won't hurt to just try a little bite!

"You don't know how this is made? Oh, I'll tell you after you eat it." -JB

This was the most expensive appetizer on the menu and the priciest one I've ever ordered, even if we were sharing as a group! But it was only right to order the foie gras during my first French experience! Mwang also kept insisting, "We have to keep it French!!!" The foie gras was sauteed and they added cooked apple and walnuts with a sweet sauce on either side of the liver. Oh, for readers don't know, the slab of meat sitting in the middle is goose or duck liver. Going into this, I had no idea the process behind the foie gras; I did notice it was a rather large liver. How was it? It was super smooth, gooey, and melted in my mouth. I've had chicken and pig liver before, so I was expecting a stickiness in my teeth. JB said that it was a good liver because it's so smooth that it melts in your mouth, and it didn't stick to your teeth. I trust that it's a fine liver, and wonderfully prepared, but I wasn't an instant fan. I just wanted more escargot!  

So after we were almost done with the foie gras, JB explained to me how they make the liver so big. They fatten the duck or goose by force-feeding it until it stops moving! Then, they kill it! How inhumane and just awful! "Sometimes, they shove food down their throats so hard, they break their beak!" Thanks, JB. Thanks for telling me AFTER I ate it. There was still a small piece left on the plate after story time, and we all just stared at it. So like usual, everyone is so polite about the last piece on the plate, "I'm full, you can have it", "No, you should take the last piece", and then JB worrying about his health, "I shouldn't eat too much, it's all fat anyway. That's way too much cholesterol for me!" So,we decided it was only fair to split the last piece of liver three ways; we'll get fat and raise our cholesterol together!

Steak, frites, salade: These fries came out of my dreams!

I ordered the cheapest steak dish at $20 (how is that cheap?). The steak was a bit tough for medium rare, but I wasn't too sad about it because the homemade frites were the fries that I've been dreaming of! Whenever I order fries, I imagine them to be more orange in color (not normal yellow fries), a good amount of fluffy potato on the inside, not too thin or thick of a cut, and with just the right amount of crispness on the outside. Call me crazy for having high expectations for a french fry, but I've only had maybe one that blew me away in my lifetime. Reviewers had talked about Les Halles' amazing fries so that was something that stuck with me when ordering. "I have to try their fries!" It really was everything I ever dreamed of in a perfect french fry. As for the steak, it was just overpriced and pretty average for a renowned establishment like Les Halles.

Steak au Poivre: Only had two bites, but I can still remember it... drool.

Oooo la la, I remember this so way better than my own entree! JB got the Steak au Poivre, (filet mignon coated with crack black peppercorn) for $24.50, which was just a few bucks more than my steak and ten times better! I loved how tender the meat was, the juices mixed with the sauce, and surprisingly, the peppercorn was not overwhelming at all. I secretly wished JB would trade with me after my first bite, but at least he offered another generous cut to me after I kept repeating, "YOUR STEAK IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN MINE!" So now I know, paying a little bit more can make a huge difference!

Magret de Canard: This duck puts Chinese ducks to shame...

Instead of getting steak, Mwang opted to try something different and stay in French mode by ordering Magret de Canard ($24). It's supposed to be roasted duck breast, turnip and potato gratin, but it didn't taste like duck to me! My friends laughed at me because they knew I was used to roasted duck from Chinatown. The sliced meat was really tender and reminded me of sliced pork meat. Am I the only one that thinks it looks more like pork? Anyway, the side of potatoes were delicious! It looks mashed, but when you cut into it, you see that it's actually layers of sliced potatoes and turnips, hmmm how sneaky of them!

"Let's each get one!" "Let's just get one..." "Fine, we'll just pick two to share." 

Long story short, I told them I wasn't big on desserts and wasn't going to order anything, but JB insisted we get three because he loved desserts and wanted more variety. I felt like a kid, sitting awkwardly at a restaurant while my "parents" fought over how many desserts we were going to order. I know, it makes for a good story right? We finally settled on two desserts; one had to be crepes while the other, not crepes. Then JB made a good point about how thin they were and so we got two kinds of crepes. Little did we know, they were more filling that we originally thought. 

Crepes Les Halles ($8.75): This was the better of the two, with creme and rum raisin inside, but I really wished we chose the one with fruit! Next time... there will be a next time. Also, I think it's meant for two people since there's two, rather long crepe rolls. 

Crepes Suzette ($13): We wanted this one because they make it in front of you, it's flambeed (I love that word!), and heavily soaked in Grand Marnier. I can actually taste it as I'm talking about it, that's how strong it was! When Mwang and I complained about it having a heavy alcoholic taste, JB was confused, "I must be an alcoholic then becauseI don't really taste it." It was great entertainment, watching them make it and seeing the giant flames... so I wanted to share that experience with you in the video below:

It's a bit dark, I blame Les Halles for the lack of good lighting

Apple Tart ($8.50): My favorite dessert of the night.

Fresh apple tart with vanilla ice cream on top. In my opinion, this was better than the two crepes. I loved the flakey, crispy dough with cold ice cream melting on it. I even liked the apple filling inside (surprising because I don't like apple pie). 

Overall, this was a very classy steakhouse with a special French style that I quite liked. It's a great place to bring a friend or two or three, and practice your French tongue (still cannot say "foie gras" correctly)! But like most famous restaurants in the big city, it's always a full house no matter what night you go, so remember to call ahead to secure a good table. Service was impeccable, as our waitress was always there to fill up our wine and water glasses. Speaking of water, I almost forgot to mention they only offered sparkling and still water! $8 per bottle for still water! Had I known this, I would have brought my own bottle of water (or maybe three), and drank more from my wine glass... we probably went through three bottles of water, easily! Sigh, another lesson for next time. 

I'll end this ridiculously long post with big thanks to JB and Mwang for joining me on my first French experience! Next time we have French, it'll be in Paris!

Brasserie Les Halles
411 Park Avenue South
New York, NY

Readers- Have you ever tried French cuisine? What was your first experience like?


  1. You should watch No Reservations. You would love it. He goes to high end and super local random places and I love how willing he is to try everything. It's not as shock jock as Zimmerman so it feels more authentic and less of a, "check out all the weird as shit people eat!" I feel like after watching his episodes I really know how to go to a place and have a real genuine food experience there.

    Also, foie gras makes me uncomfortable and I don't know why because it's not like any of the other meat we eat is treated any better by the food industry.

    1. I know I really should! I just posted another place that he had featured on his show, Sake Bar Hagi! I'm not trying to get his attention I swear!

      I wonder who thought to do something like that just for a big fatty liver? It's inhumane and so unhealthy for you! And I was not a fan of the taste or the price!

  2. Their no doubt about that the food taste is too good and pleasant and hospitality is also great. Every person has it own taste. Some like to drink wine and some Whiskey. no reservation is available for table. And one more place where we face problem for parking vehicles. their is no space for Brasserie Les Halles Restaurant Parking. Parking place is available too far from the restaurant.

  3. I uploaded your French Onion Soup picture to the World Food Guide website.


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