E, V at Fifth Ave.-53rd St.
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This venue is closed.
The first sign that something’s gone horribly wrong at the new midtown branch of the famous Côte d’Azur restaurant La Petite Maison is the rumpled canvas banners, which are strung up on the railings outside the old Rockefeller townhouse on West 54th Street like advertisements for a new Olive Garden outlet at the local mall. Then there’s the awkward space inside, which consists of an echoing, mostly vacant subterranean dining room and a small bar area upstairs, which the proprietors have jammed with tables in a doomed attempt to create a sense of antic bonhomie. And finally, as you chew your way through the greasy fried zucchini blossoms, the gummy, $55 truffle-laden risotto, and the stringy Chateaubriand for two ($70!), there are the rotating wandering-minstrel bands, which circulate relentlessly among the cowering diners, belting out hoarse renditions of “Volare” at the tops of their scratchy voices. I don’t recall enduring minstrel bands when I dropped into Nicole Rubi’s original, celebrity-saturated restaurant in Nice. But that was before La Petite Maison franchises began popping up, Olive Garden style, in London and Dubai. Presumably, the menus at those outlets contain listless, overpriced facsimiles of Niçois classics just like this one. The $38 order of tuna “tournedos” I sampled were wrapped, unaccountably, in flabby sheets of bacon; the shrimp with pastis ($42) were mealy one evening and fresh the next; and my bowl of Provençal fish soup was properly rusty in color but as warm as old bathwater. Take refuge, if you must, in staples like artichoke salad, and the lamb chops, served with a lumpish stack of chickpea frites. Whatever you do, avoid the flan for six ($40) for dessert, which is as big as a hubcap and appears to have been thickened with spackle.Ideal Meal
Artichoke salad, lamb chops.