Alain Ducasse opened the doors to his New York City location of Benoit in 2008 as an extension or window to his Paris location that opened in 1912 and became a part of his enterprise in 2005. Until my recent trip to Paris, I didn’t fully understand the experience of dining at Benoit. I saw the Parisian fare as delicious but classic and while extremely enjoyable didn’t have enough words to write home about. So I didn’t.
After indulging in bistro after bistro in Paris, Nice, Cannes and Monaco where the menus were all but identical and the food stood out based on quality of ingredients and the chef’s execution, I knew what I had experienced at Benoit was some of the best food of it’s kind. Not but two weeks had passed after my plane touched back down in NYC did I find myself missing my Parisian life. So, I walked myself back to my portal to Paris, Benoit.
There I was, in the best version of a French bistro. With the recent renovations in underwent in 2016, Benoit’s main dining room has an air of New York sophistication and flare. Somehow, it’s light and airy while also retaining those heavy classic French bistro features. It’s the white-washed wood paneled walls with large mirrors, that give the illusion of the large space being even larger, juxtaposed with those signature red velvet banquette booth-like seats that envelop the tables. It’s Paris flea market meets Grand Central. It’s gorgeous.
I parked myself at my favorite part of the restaurant, the wine bar. It’s beautiful. Particularly in the day time when the natural outdoor light is diffused as travels through the windowed doors that line front of the restaurant creating a beautiful dynamic where it’s hazily lit for roughly the first five feet of the restaurant and then the space gets dimmer and darker as you turn your head to look back. The large tiles that span the floors of the wine bar form a geometric pattern comprised of deep orange, blue and white colors. On the floors are intimate round marble topped tables that sit two or three that are framed into the space by a stunning tin topped bar lined with tall camel colored leather bar stools with backs for great leaning.
In my Parisian mecca, there to sample their new brunch menu, you can imagine my surprise to see deconstructed artfully composed dishes coming out of what I remembered to be such a classically driven kitchen. Exciting news, they have a new Parisian chef! Welcome Chef Laëtitia. She is incredibly talented and every single dish that came out was beyond thoughtful, they were nearly too pretty to eat. From a simple granola topped yogurt, to the reimagined architectural interpretation of Eggs Benedict where soft boiled eggs sit topped with strips of truffles on the ham and toast where you pour on your hollandaise to your liking, to the most unique version of a Croque Monsieur I’ve seen to date that is served in thin long sandwich strips with a truffled topped white mound that when you curiously cut into it you discover is an egg. Wow. Just, wow. They’ve thought of it all. Bring your kids, there are kid friendly versions of these dishes. Their kid’s Croque Monsieur looks like a better version of traditional version that I saw at every brasserie in France, if that doesn’t paint a clear enough picture, it mimics the look of a thick cut bread grilled cheese sandwich with a layer of ham added inside that is then topped with a thick béchamel sauce that floods over the top of your sandwich. If you thought you wanted to order from the kid’s menu before, you have no idea how badly you’ll want to now. I suppose that’s the bonus of going with kids, you can order it all, share and explore the differences—so fun!