Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Being the Francophilia that I am

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures to go along with these restaurants. I debated about it but quite honestly sometimes it is just not the right time to whip out a camera and start taking pictures. These two meal experiences warranted the no photo rule. I don't want to dwell on photos though. One of my favorite genres for cuisine is French. Especially having lived in the country, I am always trying to find decent French restaurant to transport me back for a few hours at a time. I seem to get disappointed a lot not really finding "real" French" foods or good restaurants that are extremely overpriced. Imagine my surprise then when in one weekend I managed to come across two really good, really fun French diners.

The first place was a great find. I always seem to find myself hungry around Rockefeller plaza. For me, I find the area not the best place for dinning options which are good food and not horribly overpriced and touristy. Brasserie Ruhlman has locations in NYC and Chicago. They offer classic French brasserie fare for a reasonable price, about $20 for an average meal. There location is right beside Rockefeller Plaza. If you are lucky enough to get a seat with a window view you can look out onto the plaza; my view was of the scaffolding Christmas tree. All guests receive warm rolls and good butter to start the meal. I had a warm Camembert salad. The cheese was melted inside a little dough fritter and came with a mustard vinaigrette. I also munched on Moules (mussels) and French fries. I must say that French fries never really do that much for me but my time in France did teach me the French know a thing or two about potatoes. They can whip up a mean French fry and Brasserie Ruhlman exceeded expectations with rendition of fries. Again, I didn't manage to get any pictures but the website has plenty.

The second French bistro I would like to mention is Artisanal Bistro at 2 Park Avenue (about a 5 minute walk from Macy's 34th street store). This a picture of the inside taken from their website - typical French set-up.

Once again I was hit with the dreaded brunch timing for this meal but the menu offered several non-breakfast items to pick from. I had a Prix-Fixe meal with caramelized pear crepes, a English grilled cheddar sandwich with apples and bacon (I know funny to eat English in a French bistro) and a mixture of homemade ice cream. The Prix-Fixe menu gives a three course meal with a few choices for each course and is a great deal. I will warn you that it serves quite a bit of food and I was very stuffed by the end of the meal. I also ordered a French hot chocolate, the French part making it serves in a bowl-sized mug (gigantic) and real dark chocolate (very rich). Essentially I could have sipped away on this all afternoon and been satisfied. They also offer a full range of cheeses and sausage platters. You can purchase all of the cheeses at a little shop fromagerie in the restaurant. The atmosphere was a bit noisy and the tables are tightly packed so you can easily overhear conversations of the neighboring tables. However, it is a good kind of liveliness and an enjoyable time. You can plan on spending about $20 for a meal give or take a few dollars. The food was good and well portioned. They have a great website for reservations, menus, and cheese shop information.

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