A visit to French bistro Benoit is as close as a New Yorker will get to eating in a true bistro in France, writes Pete Wells in his latest review. The Midtown Alain Ducasse restaurant, a location of a more than 100-year-old Paris restaurant, has been missing the mark with past Times reviewers since it opened, but Wells found that the newest chef, Philippe Bertineau, may be one worth keeping around for his rendition of rich French classics and seafood entrees. "The menu works like a season at the Metropolitan Opera," Wells writes.
To understand the point of keeping rafter-rattling war horses in the repertoire, all I had to do was eat Benoit’s quenelles de brochet. These two little footballs of happiness are improbably smooth, almost but not quite fluffy, filled with the freshwater richness of pike. Each one is enveloped in a thick brown gravy of Nantua sauce that is 10 times richer, made from crayfish and lobster. I tasted it, and the whole chorus marched out on the stage at once, the orchestra pounding and the fat lady throwing her head back and letting it rip. A standing ovation would have followed if Benoit’s quenelles hadn’t made me feel a bit like the fat lady myself.
Even more inimical to hopes of mobility was Mr. Bertineau’s cassoulet. A gleefully debilitating arsenal of duck confit, duck sausage and cured pork, it is also a magnificent pot of tender baked beans soaked in garlic and fat. Either the meat or the beans could slow your speed. Together they act like an anchor.
Benoit had a few missteps, like a dry and underseasoned pâté en croûte and a dull filet mignon au poivre, but Bertineau compensates with the most of the other dishes, Wells says. Wells awarded the restaurant two stars.