BY BETH KAISERMAN
Some foodies might begin their New York adventures by eating at a celebrity chef’s establishment, with secret hopes of running into their white-coated heroes in the flesh.
I began my New York life by running into a celebrity chef – literally.
Last June while watching the Stanley Cup Final at Milady’s in SoHo, my friend saw Anthony Bourdain walk by. Naturally, I had to see where my meat-loving soul mate was going for his nightly imbibing and feasting. His destination would surely be a place worth checking out.
Unfortunately, that plan was cut short when I ran straight out of the bar and into Bourdain. As passersby looked on, he responded with a cool “No problem” and moved on with his evening. I did my best fake-casual walk down the street the opposite way. A block later my face cooled off, and I returned to the bar to watch my Pittsburgh Penguins clench the Cup. Needless to say it’s one of my most bizarre (and treasured) celebrity interactions.
Over a year later, I finally landed in the right place: Bourdain’s French brasserie, Les Halles.
I happened to be in the area when I passed by and immediately decided to return later. I was really attracted by the Restaurant Week sign in the window, but the waiter never even mentioned the Restaurant Week lunch special,. Also, I wanted eggs and saw omelets on the menu in the window, but he said they were only served on weekends.
Regardless, the result was that I had the most amazingly moist and delicate quiche that I’ve ever eaten before. The ‘quiche du jour’ was leek and gruyere, served with a side of lightly dressed mesclun greens. The hefty hunk was so fragile that a piece came apart easily with one touch; it was like having a wonderful savory dessert.
I wasn’t too impressed with the coffee; though it was served in a French press, nice and strong. It still had grounds in it. The busser pressed the plunger down too fast; it requires a slow, steady pace for the best flavor. But I was surprised that I was charged only $3 for it; I expected it to be more (the menu online says $4.) The price for the quiche ($12.50) wasn’t too ridiculous either.
Of course the meal was served with fresh French bread. The bread was great with the coffee at first and complemented my meal perfectly. However, I was surprised to find an end in my basket that was too dry to enjoy.
The waiter was basically M.I.A. for most of the time, but the entree was so good I really didn’t care. This is the first time I’ve truly felt the food spoke for itself, and the service didn’t matter.
The restaurant isn’t kitschy – no pictures of Bourdain on the wall or on the menu. The atmosphere is a pretty casual French brasserie, and I was seated right away on a sort of busy afternoon. Again, I would definitely go back just for the food; it was the kind of meal you daydream about for days afterward. I’m eager to see if their signature steak frites are as good as the ones in Paris.