Mon-Thu, 5pm-11pm; Fri, 5pm-midnight; Sat, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-midnight; Sun, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-midnight
C, E at 23rd St.
Appetizers, $12 to $18; entrées, $19 to $30.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Over the past decade, the accomplished, slightly star-crossed French cook Alain Allegretti has tried on more hats than most. During the course of his peripatetic career, he has worked with luxury-minded luminaries like Alain Ducasse (at Louis XV in Monaco) and Sirio Maccioni (at the old Le Cirque 2000 on Madison Avenue). He’s run the kitchen at a gourmet restaurant at the Ritz (the doomed Atelier), opened his own fussy eponymous French establishment in the Flatiron district (the ill-fated Allegretti), and even done time working at a trendy, crowd-pleasing tourist trap (La Petite Maison, in midtown).
At his polished new Chelsea bistro, La Promenade des Anglais, however, Allegretti finally seems to have hit on a style (or a hat, if you will) for this new dining age. The modest-sized room, on the ground floor of the London Terrace apartments on 23rd Street in Chelsea, features bistro-style mirrors and a long, polished white marble bar. The waiters are dressed in vests and jaunty navy sneakers, and the ceiling has been painted with palm trees and cobblestones to evoke the famous promenade in the chef’s hometown of Nice from which the restaurant takes its name. There’s a decent haute burger at this cheerfully unfussy restaurant (lunchtimes only, with brandied onions and melted Gruyère), along with a variety of communal “for the table” items (delicious crostini piled with fresh mussels and fennel, pots of whipped ricotta with wedges of toast), and even an elegant North African–style slider (on the bar menu), which the chef makes with crumbling bits of merguez sausage.
Allegretti divides his elevated brasserie menu into a jumble of sections and subsections (I counted eight), and with the exception of the curiously flat and heavy pastas, the best dishes tend to be rooted in his Mediterranean background. The premier for-the-table dish, my tasters and I agreed, was the tempura-like zucchini-flower beignets, which are crunchy like little savory cookies and served with fresh tomato sauce for dipping. The classic French onion soup at this posh little brasserie has an overthick, almost stewlike quality, so get the Provençal fish soup ($14) instead, which has a deep, rusty color to it and is garnished, in vintage Niçoise style, with a feathery house-made rouille. That old Mediterranean staple octopus a la plancha ($16) is enlivened here with fried chickpeas and chorizo, and the delicious frog’s legs Provençal is served over a layer of smooth, gently dissolving garlic cream.
Most of the seafood entrées at La Promenade (try the grilled branzino with lemon olive oil) are executed with a similarly light touch, and if you’re in the mood for something heavier, the kitchen can do that too. The osso buco I ordered one evening was tender enough to eat with a spoon, and the honey-glazed duck breast ($29) tastes like something you’d find at the grand old gourmet establishments Allegretti used to haunt uptown. You can complement these dishes with ten varieties of Champagne, and a slew of cocktails with un-Niçoise names like the Kentucky Redhead and Pumpkin Divine. The desserts are similarly fashionable and up-to-date (try the s’mores-like guanaja mousse), although none of them packs as much punch as that old Ducasse favorite baba au rhum, which the kitchen dresses with orange zest and decadent spoonfuls of whipped cream.Ideal Meal
Mussel crostini or zucchini-flower beignets, octopus a la plancha, duck breast, baba au rhum.