After opening restaurants around the world, putting out cookbooks, and being on TV for decades, Daniel Boulud is someone you're probably familiar with, even if you're not sure how. His celebrity status and longevity in the food world make any of his projects notable. But Le Gratin doesn’t feel like just another notch in Boulud’s belt.
Located in the Beekman Hotel, this restaurant has a lot of classics like Dover sole and steak frites. Somewhere serving French standards is nothing new, but you get the feeling that Le Gratin is more personal to Boulud than some of his other restaurants. This place is inspired by bistros in Lyon, where the chef grew up, and nothing on the menu seems like a throwaway dish.
Prioritize anything labeled as a Lyonnaise specialty. Always start with the salade Lyonnaise with crispy pork belly and chicken livers, and be sure to get the chilled watercress velouté. It comes with little pieces of smoked trout and roe on crunchy toast points that take the dish to another level. A Gruyère-mushroom béchamel served with a pike quenelle is the ideal sauce to dip some bread in, and the one non-negotiable order is the plate of escargots. Instead of serving them in tiny pools of melted garlic butter, the kitchen fries the snails in tempura batter and pairs them with pig trotter croquettes and spinach-herb coulis. Just like the pastrami at Katz’s, the escargots will become the dish this place is known for.
With its mirrored walls, cigar-colored banquettes, and flowers painted on wall tiles, Le Gratin’s vibe is much more Parisian bistro than fine dining establishment. Still, this place is a great choice to celebrate any relationship status-related occasion. We understand the urge to spend your money at the latest hot opening helmed by some up-and-coming chef, but this restaurant will remind you why everyone knows Boulud’s name in the first place: for cooking French food better than most people on this planet.
Escargot Et Pied De Cochon Croustillants
We haven't seen snails fried in tempura batter anywhere else, and this preparation certainly backs up the saying that "everything tastes better fried." The escargots are arranged alongside pig trotter croquettes made with poultry mousseline and foie gras. All of that is placed on a bed of garlic-and-spinach purée with sautéed mushrooms. This unique dish combines richness, umami, and some desired greasiness, and it's the best thing on the menu.
You'd think the pork belly and chicken liver would be the stars of this salad, but it’s the runny egg combined with the chicken jus (which they use instead of dressing) that makes this dish stand out. This salad is for people who aren’t big fans of salads.
Vichyssoise De Cresson, Truite Fumée
This cold velouté made with watercress is one of the best things you can eat here in the spring and summer. We’d happily eat it in November too, but we suspect they’ll replace this with some butternut squash-like soup. And it’ll probably be just as good.
Rillettes De Canard
It’s a really close call, but we give the rillettes the slight edge over the pâté en croûte. Both come with embedded chunks of foie gras and whole grain mustard. Bring some people with you so you can order both.
Magret De Canard Au Poivre Vert
When we crave duck, Le Gratin is one of the first places that comes to mind. That’s because so many places ruin duck (usually by overcooking it). This version comes with a nice green peppercorn sauce and seasonal vegetables.
Sole Meunière Grenobloise
Every time we watch a video of someone making Dover sole, we think: “That looks like a lot of trouble.” If you like firm, meaty fish with butter, then this is your ideal dish. It comes with a side of tasty haricot verts.
Gratin Dauphinois Comme Marie
The restaurant is pretty much named after this dish (which uses a recipe from Boulud’s mother), so you'll feel pressure to order it. Go ahead and give in. The gratin is rich, creamy, cheesy, and a little sweet, and you should know that it’s a big portion.
Choux Et Prune À La Crème
This dessert is a cream puff with chantilly and some kind of fruit (roasted plums or cherries, for example). The combination of these three things has never been bad in the history of the world.