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« 31 things on year #32 | Main | Swine, wine, and 32 candles... »
Thursday
Aug022012

CLOSED: Dinner at La Promenade des Anglais

  • Restaurant  La Promenade des Anglais
  • Cuisine  French, Mediterranean
  • Location  461 W. 23rd Street (between 9th & 10th Avenues)
  • Phone  212-255-7400
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  dimly-lit, dramatic, sexy, old world
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, happy hour, dine at the bar, bar scene
  • Price  moderate

From the moment that I walked in - on the early side, of course - to meet Devon for dinner, I was totally taken by and fell rather hard for LPdA (La Promenade des Anglais).  Be its surprisingly serene, street-level location within the lovely London Terrace Gardens - the knowledgeable *and friendly* staff - or the old-world, transporting atmosphere, this Southern French newcomer is a welcome slice of Gallic formality in an otherwise eclectic, casual neighborhood.

Until the host greeted me with his American accent, I was momentarily whisked back to Nice.  Deep browns and icy blues somehow "played nice" with splashes of zebra print and sunflower-yellow hues.  Much akin to the melange of decor/colors at the famous Hotel Negresco Oversized mirrors, brass sconces and chandeliers, black + white checkered floors, and rounded-windows + archways evoked that of a dressed-up brasserie.  From a bygone era. 

Photo from La Promenade NYC dot comSince Devon was running late - and I'm always early - I grabbed a seat at the bar.  The friendly 'tender informed me that I was in the midst of happy hour, which meant that quartinos of wine and specialty cocktails were half price!  Score.  I ordered a delightful French pinot and munched on two dishes of assorted nuts in anticipation of Devon's arrival.

Once seated, we were greeted by (what ended up being) the best server I've experienced in all my years of dining.  He was brilliant.  Enthusiastic.  Knowledgeable and passionate about food and drink.  And, on top of everything else, he was adorably handsome.  Do I have a crush?  Ya, maybe... 

Travis, our server, informed Devon and me that, aside from waiting tables, he regularly bartends at the restaurant.  So, because of his mixology mastery, we trusted him to customize our beverages:  A French martini (made with cherry vodka) for Devon, and a raspberry margarita for me. 

While I would have appreciated a bit more depth in flavor, I thoroughly enjoyed the unique addition of the freshly-muddled raspberries amidst the margarita's traditional lime base. 

And then, it was the moment of truth.  My completely unfair and ridiculous method of determining whether or not a restaurant is legit:  Sampling the contents of the bread basket, of course!

Accompanied by a dish of flaky Maldon sea salt was a basket containing slices of heavily buttered, grilled country bread, and one large, airy, round roll that reminded me of a less-dense version of a Parker House.  Both varieties were delicious and fresh, but what I think I appreciated most was the salt!

Being that we were in the thick of "Restaurant Week" (Typically, I could care less about 'Restaurant Week' because I always end up spending more that I wanted and the menu generally sucks.), Travis, our server, included the special $35 prix-fixe menu - that actually looked amazing - along with the regular dinner menu.  "You all can do this anyway you'd like," he said.  "For instance, if you want to split one Restaurant Week meal and also order a few things from the regular menu, that is totally fine.  Or if you want to do one menu over the other.  Whatever!"  Wow, now how often is a restaurant in New York this flexible?  Never.   

Devon and I decided to choose two dishes from the nightly dinner menu, and split one of the Restaurant Week menus.

...

Whipped Ricotta  appetizer from the nightly dinner menu

Fluffy, whipped ricotta cheese was kissed with fragrant thyme and honey and served alongside slices of buttery, grilled country bread.

Doesn't that puff of ricotta look like a cloud?  So soft and fluffy!  Melt-in-your-mouth creaminess with the most subtle hint of sweet honey. 

To dunk or to spread?  Either way, the mild cheese made a lovely crown to the buttery, smoky, grilled bread.

Gazpacho "Riviera Style"  appetizer course from the Restaurant Week menu

A chilled soup of coarsely pureed tomatoes, garlic, and onion - somewhat resembling salsa - was topped with croutons of grilled bread and a dollop of ricotta.

While I sipped a few spoonfuls, I ultimately made use of the sliced bread in our basket to dip in to the gazpacho.  The puree was so flavorful and delicate; not laced full of tomato and onion chunks like the gazpacho's I've typically seen.  My only complaint was that the ricotta dollop was oddly dense in texture and tasted off/sour/pungent.

Scallops   entree from the nightly dinner menu

Plated atop a bed of spring vegetables, prosciutto "chips," and a lemon-kissed beurre blanc, were four perfectly-seared, seaweed-crusted scallops.

To be honest, I liked the accompaniments more than the actual scallops.  Aside from the fact that they were a tad bit too soft/mushy, their flavor was off.  And I can't help but chalk this up to the "seaweed crust" component.  I had a feeling that seaweed would be a buzz killer...

Steak Frites  entree course from the Restaurant Week menu (note that Steak Frites is also available on the traditional menus)

Plated atop a butcher's block were slices of perfectly-cooked skirt steak, a small dish of salsa verde (to top or be used as a dip for the steak), and a bowl of homemade rosemary French fries.

Every component of this entree was spot-on.  Dynamite.  The beef was charred on the outside and the interior was cooked to our requested medium-rare.  Despite the cut, the meat was not gristly or overly chewy.  Although fragrant and flavorful, I did not pair the salsa verde with the steak.  The French fries were sturdy and crunchy on the outside, revealing a soft, velvety core.  Bravo! 

Warm Chocolate Fondant  dessert course from the Restaurant Week menu

A.K.A. "molten-chocolate cake."  This version varied in that it was encrusted by a lighter-than-most exterior " cake shell" that, rather seamlessly, gave way to a warm, molten-chocolate interior eruption. 

I was hoping that the white, almond-shaped dollop on the plate was ice cream, not whipped cream.  Bummer.  The combination of the latter with the warm, sweet cake just pales in comparison to a sub-zero scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

...

Devon and I enjoyed every aspect of our experience at LPdA.  From the atmosphere and excellent service, to the delicious food and drink, we could not have been happier diners. 

This restaurant is a winner in every aspect and one that I foresee returning back to time and again.  I especially look forward to visiting my crush, Travis, while he mans the bar on his server off-nights...!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

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