This venue is closed.
Alain Allegretti’s eponymous restaurant in the Flatiron district has a nostalgic, almost wistful quality to it. All around the small, unassuming space, there are hints of old-world grandiosity preserved, as if in aspic. In the bar area, there’s a wooden display case filled with giant wineglasses and crystal snifters. In the dining room, the tabletops are covered in crisp linen and the curving silver sconces on the walls look like they’ve been heisted from a grand, neo-imperial estate on the Côte d’Azur. Allegretti grew up in Nice (where he studied under that high priest of haute Provençal cuisine, Alain Ducasse), and his menu is filled with old chestnuts like salad Niçoise, Mediterranean rouget, and, yes, crème brûlée. He also worked at Le Cirque 2000, and seems to have brought some of that restaurant’s spirit with him. The captains wear coats and ties, and call their patrons “Sir” and “Madame,” and several of the murmuring, uptown patrons I noticed talked that way too.
Allegretti tends to do his best when he lets the ancient classic recipes do most of the work for him. The crispy, coral-colored fillets of rouget (with sautéed discs of zucchini, pine nuts, and a brushing of saffron sauce) looked and tasted like they’d been beamed in from one of the grand seaside hotels in Nice. You might not find your dorado splashed with coco beans and a lemon verbena jus in restaurants along the Côte d’Azur (actually, you might), but the fish was well cooked and cost slightly less than it would during the high-summer season on the Mediterranean coast ($36). The grumpy gentleman from suburbia pointed out that his sea scallops were radically overcooked, which they were. But the “milk fed” veal is a tender piece of beef (it’s served with mushrooms sautéed in butter and a rich stock flavored with Gorgonzola and rosemary), and the lady to my right deemed her helping of fresh, ivory-colored halibut ($38 with a paella rice cake and tomato-flavored white-wine sauce) commendable, provided she didn’t have to pick up the check.
Those of you not privy, in these tenuous economic times, to deep expense accounts or vast baronial fortunes, might find the cost of dining at Allegretti an issue. But you shouldn’t be surprised. “Thou shalt charge top dollar” has been one of the central tenets of the ancient haute cuisine doctrine going all the way back to Escoffier. The wine list, accordingly, is a Eurocentric document, stocked with an impressive number of big-ticket items, including a ’98 Guigal la Mouline Côte Rôtie for $1,500, and nine types of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, selling for $250 per bottle and over. The desserts are similarly old-fashioned, although many have been spiced up, in a halfhearted attempt to make them look new. There is licorice in the mini-size panna cotta, and imperceptible traces of grappa liqueur in the standard-issue chocolate fondant. If you have to choose between a crème brûlée blasted with too much lavender and a simple brioche stuffed with Chiboust pastry cream flavored with lemons, take the brioche. After a rich meal, simplicity is sometimes a relief.Note
The restaurant offers nine flavors and varieties of tea, including a Mutan white from China, spiked with grapefruit and vanilla.Ideal Meal
Octopus à la plancha or Perugina sausage, Mediterranean rouget or veal, lemon brioche.