Alain Ducasse’s unabashed need to be embraced by New York has a real chance for fulfillment at Benoit once he whips the kitchen up a bit. Those of us obsessed by our stomachs have to be grateful he has resurrected La Côte Basque’s former space, prettied up the sexy little bar, added his own antiques, and now offers bistro nostalgia to stand in for all the oldies that have disappeared. Benoit’s gentle prices alone are seductive. Imagine! A dozen escargot in a haunting parsley-garlic butter bath under toasty chapeaux for just $16, onion soup at $9 (the Fairway Café price, for goodness’ sake), respectable quenelles de brochet at $19, and a chicken for two with fries at $48. We don’t expect snappy service so early, and friendly and welcoming is a plus. Still, after days of trial and a soft opening, let’s have some discipline in the kitchen. Slow is no big deal. But invoke the fries of Paris’s mythic L’Ami Louis and they should be hot. There are some thrills on that charcuterie plate, but it’s all a tumble, no respect at all for the duck’s silken liver or Lucullus-style veal tongue layered with foie gras. The tarte Tatin is a sad tale of good and evil: slightly singed but not caramelized on a cardboard crust, with its divine crème fraîche left on the table to drown your sorrow. Once the license comes through, you’ll find a friendly wine list, too, and the leather-bound “reserve” book of treasures will thrill serious winos. M. Ducasse saved Benoit in Paris. I trust he can save Benoit here.
60 W. 55th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 646-943-7373