1695 Second Ave (88th St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 722-5133
Hours: Lunch: Monday - Friday 1130 a.m. - 3:30 p.m Dinner: Monday - Thursday 5:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m., Friday & Saturday until midnight Sunday: 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. Brunch Saturday & Sunday 10:30a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: French (Brasserie)
Area: East 80s
Entree Price: $20-25
If one needed further proof that New York diners are a breed all into their own, all one had to do was witness the scene at Café D’Alsace on a recent Monday night. After all, where else would people line up in 90+-degree weather to consume some of the heaviest food on the planet -- food that is far more suitable for the bitter cold of January than the languid heat of July? Moreover, it turned out what the throng was waiting for -- I was smart enough to have made reservations days in advance -- was the “opportunity” to eat in a deafeningly loud, if attractively decorated, space where the tables were dangerously small, the service was pleasant but extremely haphazard, and the food was less-than-uniformly brilliant. So what attracted the crowds? The restaurant has had quite a lot buzz since it opened just a couple of months ago, due in large part to the reputation of owner Simon Oren, whose empire includes Nice Matin and Marseille. And given the lack of first-rate culinary options on that part of the Upper East Side, it’s hardly surprising curiosity got the better of many residents. Mind you, one can have a very good meal at Café D’Alsace. The country charcuterie, a wooden plank piled high with slices of prosciutto, Parisian ham, smoked duck breast, and salami, smartly accented by ramekins of pickled onions, cornichons, and good mustard – plus a (skimpy) plate of toasted bread – is a fine summer starter. On the other hand, while I believe that there can never be a truly bad tarte flambee -- the Alsatian variation on pizza made with bacon, onions and crème fraiche -- the house’s version was disappointingly mediocre. Ironically, the kitchen redeemed itself with the entrees. A beautifully seared hangar steak in a rich red wine sauce, served with a marrow-filled bone and first-rate frites, was a carnivore’s delight; so was the enormous choucrote garnie, a metal pot full of various sausages and an extraordinarily generous helping of sauerkraut. The skeptic at our table was duly impressed with salmon fume minute; the lovely filet of fish arrived rare as requested and full of flavor. Even the chicken fricassee, the cheapest entrée on the menu, was quite good, with the tasty poultry served a top a large casserole of fettuccine and mushrooms. The house recommends one of the literally hundreds of beers it serves (on tap and in bottles) to drink with your food, but there’s a decent wine list as well if that’s your preference. Our waitress wisely steered us to the evening’s dessert special, a superb white peach galette a la mode that handily served the four of us. However, I would have appreciated her mentioning that it was $12 – three dollars more than the similar sounding apple galette on the menu. But as with much of the Café D’Alsace experience, you’ll be a lot more prepared on your second visit than your first one.
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton