Alain Ducasse’s Benoit was always a little bit too real to be real for New Yorkers. It was designed to fit the French idea of a bistro, which differs from the New York idea of a bistro. Many of the city’s most famous bistros are simulacra “bistros.” Here we mistake tradition for comfort, which means a lot of roast chickens and crispy frites. But true bistros can also be ambitious. When Ducasse opened an outlet of Benoit here, the city’s dwindling number of French snobs were scandalized by the slimy, rock-hard quenelles and the grim, watery quality of the onion soup. Benoit had, as even Ducasse admits, a rough go of it early on. After the ship was righted and the restaurant was named by the city’s best bistro by us, Ducasse started over. He replaced the famous blue-sky trompe l’oeil mural with flat white, and switched to muted terra-cotta plates like you’d find at a New American spot in Bushwick. Running the kitchen is Laetitia Rouabah, who worked for Ducasse for 13 years before coming to New York. Though her remit was to reinvent the menu, Rouabah has kept a few classics, especially during lunch. Her cooking is sly, slightly subversive, and ambitious.