Anthony Bourdain’s place downtown, Les Halles.

I had to work this weekend doing geeky stuff that I won’t bore you with here, involving IBM servers and stuff your primitive intellect wouldn’t understand, things with alloys and compositions and things with… molecular structures. One of my co-workers from New Orleans came up to assist, and after we finished up we headed into the city for a bite and to kill some time. Firecracker was off horseback riding and dancing at the lesbian bar so I was on my own again… naturally (copyright Gilbert O’Sullivan, please don’t sue me you lousy 2-hit wonder).

Tourists on the bull

The weather was threatening rain, so we didn’t do too much– hopped the train to the Financial district. We didn’t do the Staten Island ferry because we only had an hour before dinner, but we walked down Broadway to Battery Park, saw a tallship sailing across the harbor, and headed back up to Wall Street. We made some stops at Trinity Church where Nicholas Cage found the treasure of the Masons, and the Chapel of St. Paul the Apostle, where George Washington was inaugurated.

WTC memorial in Battery Park

Dinner was at Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain‘s brasserie on John St. He has a tonier place on Park Ave., but I prefer this cozy spot. It has more of a pub feel, and the prices are pretty damn good for New York, especially for a place with a well-known executive chef. Executive chef means the guy who comes up with some dishes and never sets foot in the place again. Bourdain did a show where he worked a night here as a line cook, and he barely survived. I like that he has a sense of humor about his charmed life, and who wouldn’t love to have a job that meant traveling the world eating all sorts of weird delicacies?

Tallship in the harbor

His restaurant may not be stunning- nothing here wowed me more than the tasting menu at One If By Land, Two If By Sea, but it’s very consistent and makes excellent comfort food, what a brasserie is supposed to do. It’s not as cheap as Les Sans Culottes, but it holds its own with any place we ate in Paris (though we did not hit any foodie faves there, due to time and budget). And the food is excellent, especially for the price. Such as $18 for steak frites. We ate like kings and just barely nicked the C-note mark.

Blood sausage, yum!

We started off with fishy appetizers. He had escargot in a pesto broth, and I had mussels in Calvados with lardons (thick bacon) and apples. Delicious and not too filling. The rich broth in each complimented the seafood without overwhelming it, which is easy with mussels. They still had their nutty flavor. I had a few beers over dinner- the selection is decent but not spectacular- Kronenbourg 1664, Blue Moon, and Chimay Rouge. The Chimay was the best of the lot, but almost tastes too good to have with food.

For dinner he had fish and chips, and I had blood sausage with caramelized apples and mashed potatoes. I like organ meats I remember Bourdain saying that blood sausage was one of his favorite dishes, so I figured the stuff at his place would be good. It certainly was. It has a rich flavor like good liver, and while it wasn’t transcendent and thrilling like the liver at The Spotted Pig, it was delicious and had a good texture that wasn’t the turn-off I expected. I’d had black and white pudding in Ireland and while it’s good breakfast fare, it’s a bit grainy to have on its own. The blood sausage here, paired with the mild sweetness of the apples, was a great match. The mashed potatoes were creamy and buttery with a nice gravy, that went well with it. Danny liked his fish & chips just fine- I’ve had Bourdain’s frites before and they are pretty damn good.

Dessert was chocolate mousse and I had profiteroles, or as I like to call them, little ice cream cheeseburgers dipped in chocolate sauce. The sauce was as great as the chocolate fondue at Chocolate by the Bald Man, but a tad less rich than Jacques Torres’s stuff. A nice light dessert to top off the rich meal. I recommend downtown Les Halles for late night dining (they’re open until 1am) and for $50 a person plus tip, it’s a moderately priced meal for the city. You can spend nearly that much at Appleby’s, with their $13 hamburgers, which make the incredible Roquefort burger at Spotted Pig seem a bargain. The french onion soup the table next to us had smelled positively intoxicating, with its topping of aged Gruyere; I’ll definitely try that next time. I still haven’t had a simple steak here, and the aged prime rib for 2 has teased me from the menu. I’ll have to bring Firecracker here, she’s still doing the low carb thing and a prime rib for two is the perfect thing for that.

And here’s the bull’s balls, which thankfully are not on the menu.

2 thoughts on “Anthony Bourdain’s place downtown, Les Halles.

  1. Agreed, this IS a good restaurant. I had an amusing situation happen to me a couple of years ago at the downtown Les Halles… it was the dog days of the summer and I was supposed to have a business lunch there. Problem was, their air conditioning totally failed that day! I’m sure you know how awful New York is in the summer. We foolishly decided to eat there anyway. Bunch of guys in suits, sweat streaming down our faces, trying to enjoy steak frites and not collapse from the heat. I had to drink a Gatorade when I got back to the office to re-hydrate. Thanks for bringing back a memory that finally seems funny now in retrospect!!DanCasual Kitchen

  2. Ha, thanks for the anecdote. That would have brutal! I would have certainly had more beer in that case. I actually like the service here better than Park Ave- we got stuffed into an outdoor table with a shrub intruding on our table with slow service, and my duck was dry. Downtown it’s always been great, except for a slightly overdone omelet once, which still tasted great.

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