Ponty Bistro (CLOSED)
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While strolling along Third Avenue, it would be easy to pass by this French-African restaurant. Its narrow, somewhat generic exterior—improved when the front windows open onto the sidewalk on warmer days—doesn’t stand out nearly as much as the flashier Italian trattoria and French bistro less than a block away. Judging by Ponty’s half-capacity crowd on a recent Saturday night, too few people are clued in to this newcomer, which is a shame, since chef Chekh Cisse (Daniel, Vong) produces solid fare that should at the very least have a neighborhood following. Plump mussels come cooked in a fragrant coconut-milk broth that’s infused with lemongrass and mellow Senegalese spices. Butternut squash soup, warmed with a mild chili-pepper heat, was also enhanced by creamy coconut milk, lending the otherwise standard preparation an international twist. Most entres continue the fusion theme, with a West African touch enlivening bistro standards. Cisse’s steak frites was the best dish we tried: Tender sirloin, grilled a perfect medium-rare, had been seasoned with peppery safsafa seeds, the spice notes playing off the traditional au poivre sauce that lightly bathed the meat. A whole rosemary-stuffed branzino, meanwhile, grilled and served with semicrisp plantain chips, featured moist meat flavored with a simple squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Desserts, like tiramisu and orange crme brle, were well made but predictable. Once the meal was over, the one thing the kitchen left us wanting more of were those Senegalese flavors, which may be just what the restaurant needs to emphasize if it wants to stand out.
218 Third Ave
|Cross street:||between 18th and 19th Sts|
|Transport:||Subway: 6 to 23rd St|
|Price:||Average main course: $23. AmEx, Disc, MC, V|
|Opening hours:||Daily 8am–midnight|
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