October 2006 Archives

Brasserie les Halles, New York, New York


It is a truth about restaurants that it's not the food or the decor, but the service that can kill a restaurant. So the service at Les Halles bodes ill for the restaurant's future.

We went there for brunch on Sunday. Let's start with the water glasses: mine had a big old piece of greenery stuck to its side, and somehow our waiter never noticed, not during the entire meal, even when I pointedly put it in the middle of the table with the leaf facing the spot where he was standing.

And then there's the French. Les Halles is a French restaurant, one might assume, from the French name, the menu written entirely in French, that sort of thing. So I placed my order using the French names of the dishes, as listed in the menu. The waiter did not understand, and then finally had to be told the names in English. It's not as if the menu was that complicated, either.

Not that we saw a lot of our waiter. He hardly graced our table during the time were were there, which was quite a while on account of how long he took checking on us.

Then my salad, which was nice, but the leaves were a bit large for eating whole. I had no table knife, just a steak knife. Of course, apart from that, the salad was magnificent: a perfectly balanced vinaigrette with the right amount of salt, nice choice of vegetables.

Then I went to butter my bread. No butter knife. And of course, no table knife, either. So I used my steak knife, which was a bit weird.

When my second course, Ouef Benedicte (excuse me, eggs Benedict) arrived, I was very happy with the quality of the food. A perfectly poached egg, a creamy, smooth Hollondaise, nice high-quality Canadian bacon (not the grocery store stuff, thank goodness). The accompanying french fries were cooked to perfection, perfectly salted. I was a touch surprised that we were not offered any sort of sauce for them, be it ketchup or mayonnaise.

Some very long time later, when we had been staring at our empty plates for twenty minutes or more, our waiter reappeared and for the first time was prompt and attentive as he fetched the check for us.

The quality of food was really first class. If that's all that matters to you, Brasserie les Halles is a great restaurant. However, the service and the attention to detail in the table setting leaves a lot to be desired. We are unlikely to return; great food is not so hard to find in New York.

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