Brasserie Les Halles, with two locations in Manhattan, boasts much history and hype. The juice blend that became V-8 was originated in the building that houses the Park Avenue location. Anthony Bourdain was formerly the executive chef there, and features the restaurant frequently in two cookbooks, Kitchen Confidential and Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. I recently visited the downtown location on a Friday night.
After a late night arrival near the Financial Distrct, Les Halles Downtown was a casual scene where it was easy to get a table. The main room was dark and seductive, with several couples and groups huddled at tables or along the fabulous bar. The bar stretches nearly the full length of the restaurant on one side, with shelves full of wine lining the back wall on either side of a large clock. Exotic red wood panels break up the golden yellow painted walls, with posters and prints positioned throughout. It is an authentic setting, one you feel you would find in Paris, with dining to match.
I started with Salade d’Auvergne, with arugula, bleu d’Auvergne, roasted walnuts and apples. Dinner included Mignon de Porc “Maison”, a pork tenderloin, with garlic confit and mashed potatoes, and classic Coq au Vin, with plentiful bacon and mushrooms. For beverages, I tasted the Spiced Mojito, made with lemongrass jalapeño syrup, and muddled mint, topped off with ginger beer, and a Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Rouge Vieilles Vignes 2011. The wine, an entry-level Burgundy, was earthy and dry, with tart berries and good length that paired well with the flavors of the entrees. The wine list was not large, but had good variety among mostly French selections, all attractively priced. Upon another visit, I plan to have one of the prime steaks, billed as "American Beef, French Style".
It could have been that I had one of the few tables being served at the end of the night, but service was pleasant and attentive from a primary waiter, who was assisted only for food delivery. While French service style may have a reputation for stiffness and air of superiority, I found myself feeling well-cared for throughout the experience, and would have gladly lingered for a coffee had time permitted.
Les Halles Downtown delivered a thoroughly satisfying, and reasonably-priced, dining experience, and took me even further out of town than I was.
Brasserie Les Halles on Park Avenue - 411 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10016
Brasserie Les Halles Downtown - 15 John Street, New York, New York 10038