Mon-Fri, 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-10:30pm; Sat-Sun, 12:30pm-3pm and 5pm-10:30pm
6 at 51st St.; E, M at Fifth Ave.-53rd St.
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An antique form of Frenchness is on display at the Manhattan outlet of the famous Parisian steakhouse in the 17th Arrondissement called Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. “We don’t do ketchup, we don’t do mayonnaise, we don’t do butter with your bread,” said my genial waitress, who, unlike the famously brusque ladies at the original establishment near the Porte Maillot, spoke in the rich, lilting brogue of outer-borough New York. Like the ladies in Paris, however, she wore a black frilled skirt and white apron, which made her look like the parlor maid in a forties Broadway farce. As in Paris (and the newer branches in Barcelona and Bahrain), my table was set with rolls of white paper and the kind of stubby, plastic-handled knives you find packed away in boxes in your grandmother’s attic. And like in Paris (where the menu of starter salad, beef, and frites has been set in stone since 1959), all the waitress wanted to know was whether I wanted my steak rare or “bloody.”
By New York’s elevated beefeater standards, the various meat selections at L’Entrecôte (the approximate French term for “rib eye”) are skimpily sized. But none of this matters very much once you start spooning the sacred house “secret sauce” on your matchbox-size piece of beef and piling it with drifts of the salty, pleasingly crinkly house frites. The recipe for L’Entrecôte’s butter-and-cream-based sauce is closely guarded (the key, according to Le Monde, is an infusion of chicken-liver essence), and it has the ruinously addictive powers of crack cocaine. Non-addicts might notice that their salad is scraggly, that the cheese plate appears to have been bought at the Food Emporium, and that the bread brought to the table by their un-French waitress is dry. But hopeless junkies (like me) won’t care. The dizzying infusion of fatty richness makes dessert superfluous. And at $28.75 for a steak, salad, and all the fries and sauce you can eat, the fix is relatively cheap.