In honor of Bastille Day on July 14th, French Restaurant Week kicked off in New York City on Monday, July 13 and runs through July 19th. Commemorating the start of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, Bastille Day is a national celebration in France. As the French have contributed so much to America’s culinary culture, and, in particular, New York’s, restaurants around the city are celebrating with delicious dining deals and dishes. Here are five favorites to feast on during NYC French Restaurant Week.
The super-stylish Brasserie 8 ½ features a sweeping staircase, a sleek bar, and a mod, airy dining room with original artwork by Léger, Matisse, and others favored by the Louvre! Très French! With three courses for $35.78, diners can kick things off with a staple, such as steak tartare, and a choice of entrée, including the classic confit de canard. Whatever you choose to begin with, consider ending your meal with the pêche, or peach, Melba. This once-ubiquitous sweet treat deserves its own renaissance. Conceived by chef Auguste Escoffier (and inspired by his admiration for the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba) in the late 1890s, the medley of peaches, raspberries, and vanilla ice cream is served at Brasserie 8 ½ with an almond financier and toasted almonds. As the height of peach season hits, this is not to be missed.
Le Cirque has built its reputation on sophisticated spectacle. Named for the French word for circus, it is the creation of Sirio Maccioni, who perfected his version of personal hospitality as maitre d’hotel at Manhattan’s elite clubhouse-to-the-stars Colony, which shuttered in 1971. Le Cirque attracted a similar bold-faced name crowd, thriving over the course of three locations in more than 40 years, providing doting service and refined dining to famous guests as well as your average Joes and Joans. Despite Maccioni’s Italian heritage, Le Cirque is decidedly French in its cuisine. The luxe $178.90 NYC French Restaurant Week menu includes a bottle of bubbly Champagne (natch!) and lobster salad, but it’s the closer of crackly, creamy crème brûlée that’s our pick for the coolest course.
Perennial favorite Orsay, a classic Manhattan bistro that opened in 2000 whose lineage extends from the team behind La Goulue, which closed its doors in 2009 after nearly 40 years of foie gras and frites, describes itself as a work of art – and we couldn’t agree more. The décor, the high-backed banquettes with frosted glass, and the flattering lighting will transport you to Paris’s Art Nouveau age. Go for the multi-course $35.78 lunch – and order the elegant and artful skatefish. Delicate and healthful with its parsley, capers, and deceptively simple brown butter sauce, the dish is a staunch reminder of why the French seem to have such enviable physiques despite their gourmet appetites.
Don Draper never made it to Paris, but we bet he and erstwhile wife Megan hit Le Perigord during their Mad Men marriage. Even though the show has come and gone, Le Perigord has endured. This week, channel one of television’s most fashionable couples at this still-chic midtown destination that is a “French restaurant the way French restaurants used to be,” from tuxedoed waiters to stately tableside service. Sink your teeth into a choice of three courses of timeless seasonal specialties – but be certain to choose the rich-yet-delicate pâté du chef, served with celery remoulade and rustic ratatouille, to start your meal off right.
Tucked in the Iroquois Hotel and open since 2000, Triomphe is a choice stop for visitors and locals alike, located just two blocks away from the Beaux-Arts landmark New York City Public Library building. The restaurant is both welcoming and intimate, and chef Florian Wehrli combines local ingredients with the French technique to deliver fresh dishes with a sexy accent. If you can’t splurge for the sublime $178.90 dinner menu for two, stop in for the more wallet-friendly $17.89 bar menu or the $35.78 gourmand lunch menu, both of which feature escargot with garlic hazelnut butter — a great pick for followers of the popular Paleo diet who understand that butter makes everything better.