A New(ish) Frenchie on Bowery: Cherche Midi

Name: Cherche Midi

NGM Rating: B+

Restaurant Inspection Rating: (*new request*): A

Website: http://www.cherchemidiny.com/

Location: 282 Bowery, NY, NY 10012

Cuisine: French Bistro

Owner/Chef: Keith McNally, Shane McBride and Daniel Parilla

When did it open: June 2014

Ambiance: Think Balthazar with a facelift – that’s Cherche Midi. Balthazar has been a McNally classic in NYC for some time, and Cherche Midi is a new variation on the same theme. Balthazar, not too far down the road, has more recently become overrun with tourists and lost some of its luster with the local crowd anyway, so this was a nice way to spruce things up. That being said, however, I was saddened when McNally decided to pivot Pulino’s into this new venture. I quite enjoyed the casual pizza joint, particularly in the warm-weather months when outdoor seating was plentiful. In contrast, Cherche Midi has all the makings of an upscale bistro. The people watching, the line of tres chic patrons waiting at the door for a coveted table, the servers in formal attire, the red-leather banquets and tables with white tablecloths, stained glass and extensive bar with bottles backlit for effect. These are also quintessential qualities of other McNally restaurants as well, particularly those related to decor. The service was very pleasant, from the hostess to the bartender and ending with our table server.

Menu highlights: Steak Frites (my friend enjoyed), Grilled Lamb Saddle, Frites, Apple Tarte Tatin and brussels sprouts cooked in bone marrow and truffles. Really. … anything with meat from here is bound to be tasty. Simple preparations and no real frills on plate execution. I have heard thumbs up reviews about the Prime Rib Burger which sounds absolutely sinful, topped with bacon marmalade, roasted mushrooms and gruyere cheese. Obviously, you get a nice side of Frites on the side as well.

What I didn’t get to try: Pot de Fromage, Bouchot Mussels and homemade lobster ravioli.

Constructive criticisms: If you enjoy a classic french bistro/brasserie experience with the added McNally touch then you’ll fawn over Cherche Midi. It has that old Parisian feel and the downtown people-watching to go with it. I, however, have become somewhat disenchanted and bored with this kind of dining experience. Don’t get me wrong, the food, service and ambiance all come together at Cherche Midi, but the menu does remind me of numerous other French bistros scattered throughout the City. As I said before. … no real vibrance to the preparations and the plates are very simple. … whereas the bill is not! The tables are packed tightly too, so not a lot of elbow room or space for you to finagle your way out if you end up on the inside seat.

Best for: People watching, checking out the new hot spots, date night, gossiping with the gals, a splurge, celebratory occasion.

Dress Code: Urban chic

Average Pricing: Cocktails: $15 , Appetizers: $18 , Entrees: $32, Dessert: $10 .

Reservations: Reservations are available on OpenTable, but like many of McNally’s other restaurants tables can be hard to come by. I would plan ahead or be prepared for the very early/late shifts.

Rushed @ red bar brasserie

I find it increasingly difficult to have a hassle-free meal in the Hamptons during the high summer months. But since I enjoy dining out, I get the itch sometimes to go to an old standby or the newest en vogue out there. This past weekend I went with my family to red bar brasserie in South Hampton for an early dinner before making the trek back to the City. It was quick reminder of why I usually just eat a fresh meal at home between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Now I have been here a number of times before and typically have a very nice experience, but this time something was off. I thought we were off to a great start when the host recognized someone in my party and said, “Oh! I did not know you were on this reservation or I would have seated you at your regular table.” That should be the golden ticket to good service at a high-end restaurant, right? I thought so too.

Everything was going well until the appetizers were on the table. We ordered the Bruschetta with Artichoke, Piquillo Pepper, Black Garlic and House-Made Lemon-Farmers Cheese for the table and some people ordered the special Tuscan Tomato Soup with Bell Peppers and Croutons. The Bruschetta was tasty even though the other ingredients overpowered the artichoke to the point you could barely taste it. And we clearly did not order enough because there were only three small toasts for the five of us, but that’s our on problem! But here’s where the evening went downhill. One person still had about a quarter of her soup left in the bowl – and she was still hunched over the plate as though she wanted to continue eating – when the bus boy arrived at our table trying to remove the dish. She politely told him she wanted to continue enjoying the appetizer and he disappeared. … for approximately 60 seconds.

So, I guess we were moving onto the main course. I ordered the Truffled Chicken Breast with Mushroom Risotto and French Beans, which I highly recommend. I could smell the truffle aroma wafting in the air as the waiter placed the rest of the plates on the table before mine. And who doesn’t like truffles! The chicken was tender and under the crispy skin was a thin layer of truffles giving the dish that extra “umph!” The risotto was rich – as all risotto should be – and the green beans were there to round out the course and serve as an attempt to be healthy. But as I was finishing my meal the vendetta against our table resurfaced.

The same person who ordered the soup ordered a simple Endive Salad, and before she could eat half of it the bus boy arrived trying to remover her plate. I understand the need for table turnover, but it was 6 p.m. on a Sunday. Seeing as there was not a long line of people waiting to get in I do not think it would have killed the staff to let us enjoy a peaceful family meal. We each enjoyed our food, but could not figure out why they wanted to get us out of there so quickly. Did we smell bad? The table behind us did not appear to have the same issues. After each bottle of wine they all consumed (I think we counted three, but who knows) the noise level in the restaurant grew two octaves. They were having a grand ‘ole time and lasted far longer than us.

We decided not to order dessert for fear the Profiteroles would be gone before we could scrape the chocolate sauce from our plates. We paid the bill, the host tried his friendly charm yet again and we went on our way. As I said, I have been to red bar a number of times. And I usually leave satisfied. I like the brasserie feel with the wicker chairs and white table clothes, and the intimate dining room setting. The dining room fills up quickly and there is usually a nice, unpretentious liveliness about the place. The food is consistently good, but my experience with the service this go around was just particularly notable (and in case you didn’t get the memo, it wasn’t in a good way). I am also a patron at the owner’s other restaurants, Beacon and Fresno, and would hope the next time I dine at one of them I feel just a tad more wanted. If you head over to red bar, let me know your thoughts. I would like to go back at some point!

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red bar brasserie, 210 Hampton Road, Southampton, NY 11968. Phone: (631) 283- 0704.

When to Book: red bar brasserie takes reservations on OpenTable and you can typically get a reservation a week in advance. During the peak season of summer, you may want to give yourself an extra week to make your reservation if you want prime-time weekend spots.