Le Relais de Venise
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One of the incredible things about dining in New York City is the sheer variety, but there’s something equally comforting in not having to choose. That’s one way to explain our enthusiasm for Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecte, a family-style Parisian import where diners can order steak frites and salad...or steak frites and salad. The chain has gained an international clientele in cities such as London, Barcelona and since last summer, New York. The setting is quirky—IHOP meets Pastis—and the waitresses, in black dresses and white aprons, are equal parts French maid and lunch lady. The room, with its wood paneling, half curtains and vinyl banquettes, also strikes an authentic yet ersatz chord. A typical visit goes like this: Order wine, if desired (try the $11 half bottle of house red—you won’t be sorry) and tell the server how you like your meat cooked. That’s it. First comes the salad, torn greens with walnuts drowned in mustard vinaigrette. Then the steak and fries. The servers offer a demi portion of each, returning when you’re nearly finished with the second half, which they keep warm while you eat. It’s a nice, albeit peculiar, touch, and ultimately feels like you’re getting two meals for the price of one. Our medium-rare entrecte (a cut from the rib) arrived in thick, juicy slices, pink in the middle and tasting faintly of blood. The fries, meanwhile, are golden and crunchy. (We could have done without the “secret sauce”—an herbed-butter gravy that’s fatty, congeals quickly and masks the meat.) Indecision is reserved for dessert: There are more than a dozen options (about $6 la carte). We recommend the vacherin de Venise, a tower of meringue, dark-chocolate sauce and hazelnut and vanilla ice creams, or the equally daunting Mont Blanc, vanilla ice cream with chestnut puree and chantilly. Like the desserts, the restaurant is no better and no worse than it has to be—which makes it kind of great.
590 Lexington Ave
|Cross street:||at 52nd St|
|Transport:||Subway: E, V to Lexington Ave–53rd St; 6 to 51st St|
|Price:||Two-course prix fixe: $24. AmEx, MC, V|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Fri noon–2:30pm, 5:30–10:30pm; Sat, Sun 12:30–3pm, 5:30–10:30pm|
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