Mr. Tourondel is listed as executive chef on the menu, but exactly what he does to separate Brasserie Ruhlmann from the great gray horde of steak-frites joints in town is difficult to see. The restaurant is busiest, and best, at lunchtime, although you may have to wait ten minutes, as I did, for a glass of iced tea. The menu is filled with old standbys (clunky duck à l’orange, passable though pricey sole meunière, unremarkable steak-frites), with a pronounced emphasis on the familiar flavors of Provence. My favorite dish was the spicy lamb sandwich I had at lunch, which was pressed between toasted ciabatta and stealthily injected with olive tapenade. For dinner there are decent short ribs braised in red wine, and rabbit barely redeemed by a sweet mustard sauce. The best of the desserts defy innovation: a creamy île flottante topped with a nest of spun sugar, and an apple tart so thin and perfectly sized it makes you forget, however briefly, that you’re dining in a glorified, not entirely unpleasant tourist trap.
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Address: 380 Lafayette St., nr. Great Jones St.; 212-533-7000
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dinner, Sunday through Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Prices: Appetizers, $7 to $16. Entrées, $16 to $48
Ideal Meal: Shrimp-and-Chinese-chive dumplings, grilled-beef salad, crispy-skin chicken, monkfish or branzino, chocolate sundae.
Note: The selection of dim sum is larger at lunch and larger still at brunch.
Scratchpad: The nightclub vibe is exhausting, but for dim sum and a classic New York Chinese dinner, you could do worse.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-974-2020
Hours: Breakfast, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, $11 to $16, entrées, $10 to $42.
Ideal Meal: Beet salad, spicy lamb sandwich, apple tart.
Note: The weekend brunch is one of the better options in this region of midtown.
Scratchpad: There’s nothing egregiously bad here, but is it worth traveling out of the neighborhood to visit? No.