The 10 Best French Restaurants in America
June 23, 2015
From neighborhood bistros to bastions of haute cuisine, these are America’s best French restaurants
#10 Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich, Conn.
Born in the Black Forest of Germany near the Alsatian border, chef Thomas Henkelmann acquired his extensive culinary training around France, Germany, and Switzerland, working in places ranging from his family’s restaurant to the world-renowned Hôtel Le Richemond in Geneva to the three-Michelin-starred Auberge de l'Ill in Alsace. The contemporary French menu in his dining room at the Homestead Inn follows the seasons, and can include dishes like pheasant quenelles crowned in puff pastry served with pheasant consommé, foie gras, Périgord black truffles, and porcini mushrooms; grenadin of veal with a Maine lobster risotto and Parmesan-Reggiano lace; and roasted loin of venison with bow-tie pasta gratin, red cabbage, poached pear, red wine venison sauce, and watercress.
#9 Little Bird, Portland, Ore.
Little Bird is two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker’s French bistro, located in downtown Portland (the birthplace of James Beard), and is the more wallet-friendly sibling of his other acclaimed Rip City restaurant, Le Pigeon. Despite the slightly more affordable prices, the quality is still top-notch; in the daytime, it is a popular lunch spot serving des plats français classiques like roasted marrow bones with ham, cheese, onions, and smoked honey and a savory brioche bread pudding comprising corn, green beans, morel mushrooms, and summer truffle. Come dinnertime, the eatery transforms into one of the most romantic, date-friendly restaurants in town, serving dishes such as seared foie gras with chicken skin, lentils, lovage, and strawberry chutney and duck confit with green beans, hazelnut, pickled cherries, and a smoked foie gras vinaigrette.
#8 Le Pichet, Seattle
You can take a culinary trip across the Atlantic at this lovely little bistro. Le Pichet looks, feels, and tastes Parisian thanks to its savvy co-owners. Chef Jim Drohman studied cooking in the City of Lights, while sommelier Joanne Herron has tasted her way through France’s boutique wineries, and this extensive palate training shows up on both the plates and in the glasses. Regulars and newcomers alike adore the Gallic fare: brandade de morue nîmoise with olive oil, cream, and potato served with marinated olives and grilled bread; pâté albigeois with honey and walnuts; and roast chicken with white beans and carrots.
#7 Palme d'Or, Miami
High-class French fine-dining bastion Palme d’Or, located in Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel, has been consistently rated as one of Miami’s best restaurants. Light woods, white tablecloths, chandeliers, and, of course, palm trees create a stylish and sophisticated, yet unstuffy atmosphere. All of this makes it the perfect location to enjoy a four-, six-, or eight-course prix fixe menu that utilizes only the freshest seasonal ingredients in ways that elevate traditional French cuisine to modern, envelope-pushing extremes. Appetizers include le tartare de thon with avocado, cucumber, heart of palm, and mango and tangerine-poached Alaskan king crab served with carrots, mint, onions, and sweet peas. Entrées include roast quail with green vegetables and morel mushrooms and barbarie duck with rhubarb that incorporates both a seared breast and confit leg.
#6 Everest, Chicago
True to its name, Everest (which came in at No. 67 on our list of The 101 Best Restaurants in America) towers head and shoulders above many of Chicago's other upscale restaurants — literally, from its perch on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, as well as gastronomically, through Alsatian-born chef Jean Joho's superlative French food. The James Beard Award-winning chef, who also operates the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas, has crafted a menu of dishes with inspired flavor pairings, and a recent tasting menu included presskopf (headcheese) of pheasant, duck, and quail with truffle vinaigrette; New York State foie gras, pineapple quince, and Alsace spice cake; and line-caught cod with stuffed macaroni, salsify, and pinot noir jus. The 1,600-bottle wine list stuns almost as much as the views — above all because of its collection of great wines from Joho's home region.
#5 Guy Savoy, Las Vegas
The original Paris version of this restaurant, which earned three Michelin stars, is elegant and consistently wonderful. The Las Vegas iteration possesses two Michelin stars of its own (it’s also earned five stars from Forbes). The $290 menu closely resembles the €420 ($455 USD) Parisian one; both contain such Savoy modern classics as "colors of caviar," artichoke and black truffle soup, and salmon iceberg. A few years back, a writer for Gourmet ate the same food at the Paris and Las Vegas restaurants and found them pretty much equal in quality, so it makes sense that the restaurant was identified as the 18th best in the country on our ranking of the top 101 this year. Ironically, at the Las Vegas Guy Savoy, you can even see an Eiffel Tower out the window (the one at the Paris Hotel) — a sight that the Parisian Guy Savoy can't match.
#4 Bouchon Bistro, Yountville, Calif.
Shellfish platters, pâté, salt cod beignets, steak frites, escargots, and other bistro basics are on the menu at this authentically reimagined French bistro in the Napa Valley — and the fact that the man who created Bouchon Bistro in 1998 (four years after launching the French Laundry) is Thomas Keller means that it’s all very, very good. Bouchon (which was voted the 15th-best restaurant in the country on our 2015 list) is about traditional fare executed with care, like year-round specials including poulet rôti roasted with English peas, garden lettuce, bacon lardons, and chicken jus; truite amandine with toasted almonds and beurre noisette; and gigot d’agneau with boulangère potatoes. The boudin blanc with potato purée and dried French plums is simply amazing.
#3 Jean-Georges, New York City
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the few chefs in New York City with the distinction of four stars from The New York Times, and his eponymous restaurant was ranked No. 5 on our list of The 101 Best Restaurants in America this year. At Jean-Georges in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, one of the few restaurants left in New York where gentlemen are required to wear jackets, his classic French technique bridges old and new worlds and eschews heavy sauces. The prix fixe menu at Jean-Georges, executed by executive chef Mark Lapico, features an assortment of the chef’s signature dishes, like “Egg Caviar,” a lightly scrambled egg topped with whipped cream and ossetra caviar that’s one of the city’s greatest bites of food.
#2 Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas
The cooking is simply exquisite in this opulently furnished dining room in the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. As the first restaurant opened in America by the famed, award-winning Robuchon, widely considered the greatest of modern French chefs, Joël Robuchon maintains the highest standards under the guidance of chef Steve Benjamin. The 16-course tasting menu is a truly memorable experience — as it ought to be at $445 a head, wine not included. It’s worth every penny, and is so good it landed the No. 3 spot on our 2015 edition of The 101 Best Restaurants in America. If you can reserve a table, you’ll be served dishes such as black truffle tart with confit onions and smoked bacon, frog leg fritters with garlic purée and parsley coulis, and seared diver sea scallop served with kumquat and caviar.
#1 Daniel, New York City
Daniel Boulud’s flagship, Daniel, maintains French haute cuisine’s standards of service and culinary excellence that hark back to an earlier era. But the cooking is up-to-date and really, really good, and the menu changes daily. If you are lucky enough to score a reservation, you may sample dishes as part of a four-course $135 or seven-course $225 prix fixe menu under the watchful eye of executive chef Jean François Bruel. Chilled oysters “en gelée” with fennel mousseline, sea urchin finger lime, and white sturgeon caviar; warm Austrian white asparagus with sherry wine mousseline and Ibérico ham; and glazed sweetbreads with potato gnocchi, Louisiana crayfish, sweet pea purée, cockscombs, and porcini are among the dishes you might be served. It’s not only the best French restaurant in America, but was named the best restaurant in the country by our experts earlier this year, full stop.