In New York City, a Brave New Benoit
Alain Ducasse’s famed New York City restaurant Benoit went through a major facelift in 2016: The proprietors took a very traditional French bistro and breathed new life into it. Today, it boasts a much brighter, more contemporary and modern vibe, and the front bar currently operates as an inviting wine bar. Not only have the aesthetics been given a makeover, but so has the menu and culinary ethos of the establishment.
The key reason for this change came after the introduction of Laëtitia Rouabah, who came on board as chef de cuisine roughly a year ago. After having earned her professional certificate in culinary arts at the Chamber of Craftsmanship in Versailles, she worked in various kitchens, many of whom belonged to Alain Ducasse, scattered throughout Europe (including Hotel Plaza Athénée; Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester; Jules Verne, Alain Ducasse’s iconic restaurant atop the Eiffel Tower; and Allard). Allard most famously employs an all-female kitchen staff, of which Ducasse is very proud.
Given her culinary background and pedigree, Rouabah knows the art of classic French cuisine inside and out — from every sauce to each technique, she knows how to execute it flawlessly. However, she viewed a great need to lighten some of the traditional French classics for those guests who wanted an authentic French experience filled with incredible flavors and technique, without the heaviness that would inevitably come along with it.
She has married the two concepts, thus staying true to a cuisine she loves while using fresh, local market ingredients coupled with an expert technique to showcase classic French dishes. This fact is evident from so many of the plates that come out of her kitchen day in and day out.
For the hors d’oeuvre section of the menu, some lighter additions and small bites worth trying include rabbit porchetta with mustard and tarragon, squid with chickpeas and spices and butternut squash with cured duck. The classics that are not to be overlooked are the duck foie gras terrine with fall fruit chutney and Parisian brioche, and the outstanding escargots with garlic and parsley butter.
The chef is also more than accommodating to food allergies and intolerances and even offers guests gluten free bread, should they wish to substitute that for brioche in any of the dishes. They also provide a host of vegetarian and pescatarian dishes on the menu including items like roasted cod with mango and passion fruit rougaille sauce or steamed striped bass with spelt and seaweed, topped with black olive and lemon.
Whether you consider yourself a French cuisine purist, or someone who is looking for lighter, more contemporary fare, the culinary and front of house team at Benoit will certainly deliver the experience you are looking to have.