100 best New York restaurants: French restaurants

There was a time when the best New York restaurants were exclusively French. Those days are waning, but these five spots are keeping the Gallic flame alive.

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

100 best New York restaurants: Buvette

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100 best New York restaurants: DBGB

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100 best New York restaurants: Balthazar

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Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

100 best New York restaurants: Daniel

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100 best New York restaurants: Café Boulud

Classic haute French food may feel old-hat in a city with boundary-pushing chefs dominating the conversation. But some of the best New York restaurants are still French ones—traditional fine dining stalwarts and raucous bistros where the cuisine of la France lives on. Here are the best French restaurants in New York, including two venues from Gotham’s Gallic king Daniel Boulud.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of 100 best New York restaurants

Buvette

Critics' pick

Jody Williams may have designed her intimate, Gallic-themed eatery with friends and neighbors in mind, but the food here is too accomplished to keep gastro-groupies at bay. Those who wait for an evening table are treated to excellent small plates, which arrive all at once like an indoor picnic: exceptional fluffy brandade (house-cured salt cod emulsified with garlic-steeped milk), rustic hand-cut steak tartare and a delicious cocotte of falling-off-the-bone coq au vin (the closest thing to an entrée here). Every detail of the place is thoughtfully curated, leaving you to revel in the chef’s very good taste as you linger over fat slices of perfectly caramelized apple tarte Tatin.

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West Village

DBGB

Even in a city awash in unruly menus, the one at DBGB—chef Daniel Boulud’s most populist venture—stands out for its kitchen-sink scope. There’s high-end junk food in the form of sausages (the best of the bunch is the Beaujolaise, infused with red wine, bacon and mushrooms). And there’s haute bistro fare like pink duck breast with boozy cherries and marcona almonds. The best way to get your head around the schizophrenic enterprise is to bring a large group and sample the range—including a sundae, layered with cherry-flavored kriek-beer ice cream and speculoos cookies, for dessert.

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Balthazar

Critics' pick

Not only is the iconic Balthazar still trendy, but the kitchen rarely makes a false step. At dinner, the place is perennially packed with rail-thin lookers dressed to the nines. But the bread is great, the food is good, and the service is surprisingly friendly. The $99 three-tiered seafood platter casts the most impressive shadow of any dish in town. The frisée aux lardons is exemplary. The skate with brown butter and capers and a standard-bearing roasted chicken on mashed potatoes for two are both délicieux. Don’t hate the patrons because they’re beautiful; just join them.

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Soho

Daniel

Critics' pick

A vibrant redesign by Adam Tihany has brought Daniel Boulud’s classically opulent restaurant into the 21st century. The food is as fresh as the decor: A raw starter of wasabi-kissed hamachi tartare is paired with hamachi sashimi marinated in a subtle tandoori rub. Unusually generous entrees include astonishingly tender halibut, roasted on a slab of Himalayan sea salt and served with Thai basil, hearts of palm and a mellow yogurt-curry sauce. Sure, Daniel is still a big-ticket commitment, but Boulud and his team make a powerful case for keeping the high-end genre alive.

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Lenox Hill

Café Boulud

Critics' pick

This uptown mainstay recently received a face-lift, but the food remains a reflection of the iconic Daniel Boulud. Accomplished chef Gavin Kaysen prepares modern variations of French cuisine, plus more-whimsical seasonal and international dishes. Among the market-driven plates is vodka-cured salmon paired with tiny potatoes and rye-bread puree. Meatless options include delicate mushroom ravioli filled with hen-of-the-woods specimens, black trumpets and truffles. Dessert is just as elegant: A complex pastry layered chestnut mousse and cassis gelée.

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Lenox Hill

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