Aside from the excellent Buffalo wings (the blue-cheese sauce is whipped with crème fraîche), the best things at Cercle Rouge seem to be beef-related. There’s a formidable-looking côte de boeuf, sliced for two (it costs a formidable $55), and decent hanger and sirloin variations on the old steak-frites theme. There are very good organic lamb chops, and a nice cut of New York strip presented on a warm cutting board graced with huge decorative bulbs of garlic. The seafood (mediocre skate, okay cod and John Dory) is undistinguished, especially when doused with obscure, waiter-recommended sauces like Szechuan carrot jus. The frites are properly crisp and crinkly, and the brasserie hounds at my table liked the side dishes well enough, particularly the buttery, gourmet mashed potatoes and a weirdly successful invention called curried bok choy. You can get a flight of weirdly unsuccessful crème brûlées for dessert flavored with, among other things, litchis. But if you’re wise, you’ll do the safe thing in this eminently safe neighborhood restaurant. You’ll order the tarte Tatin.
Address: 207 Tenth Ave., nr. 23rd St.; 212-627-7777
Hours: Dinner, Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday to 11:30. Sunday to 10:30.
Prices: Appetizers, $8 to $18. Entrées: $20 to $26.
Ideal Meal: Short ribs, braised pork belly, Korean pear upside-down cake.
Note: Korean food may not be your thing, but if you enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches, D’or Ahn’s blue-cheese version, served as a dessert-slash-cheese course, is excellent
Address: 241 W. Broadway, nr. White St.; 212-226-6252
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 11 to 4. Dinner, Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday to 1:30. Sunday to midnight.
Prices: Appetizers, $7 to $23. Entrées: $16 to $55.
Ideal Meal: Buffalo wings, prime organic New York strip, tarte Tatin.
Note: As befits a French establishment, the French wines on the list are modestly priced and well chosen, particularly the Burgundies.