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Two Remarkable New Restaurants From Alain Ducasse

Adour and Benoit, the chef's latest ventures, give New Yorkers a taste of contemporary, and traditional, Paris.

The wine bar at Adour, Alain Ducasse's new restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel, in New York.
Courtesy Eric Laignel/The St. Regis New York
By Sari Lehrer

Since his Monaco restaurant Le Louis XV was awarded three Michelin stars, in 1990, Alain Ducasse has become practically an international franchise. His empire reaches from Hong Kong to London, with stops in such places as Mauritius and Tokyo in between.

But Ducasse's latest ventures, Adour and Benoit, are noteworthy because they have brought him back to New York. (His 2000 Manhattan debut, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, was roundly mocked for its over-the-top decadence.) Each occupies a storied space: the St. Regis hotel for Adour, and for Benoit, the former home of La Côte Basque (the legendary high-society commissary immortalized in Truman Capote's final novel, Answered Prayers). The two are remarkable for their expertly prepared cuisine and their unpretentious charm.

At Adour (2 E. 55th St.; 212-710-2277; adour-stregis.com), the food is refined, contemporary French — think butter-poached lobster, duck breast au sautoir — and emphasizes seasonal ingredients. (In winter, the lobster is accompanied by Swiss chard fondant; in spring, sweet peas.) Equally significant is the 500-plus-bottle wine list, which figures not only in Ducasse's menu — thoughtful pairings are paramount — but also in David Rockwell's design. The room is a study in shades of burgundy and chardonnay, and the accent lights resemble grapes; taken together, these elements produce the same fuzzy good feeling as would a 2002 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc.

Conviviality is chief among the virtues of Benoit (60 W. 55th St.; 646-943-7373; benoitny.com). Inspired by the 1912 Paris bistro of the same name (Ducasse acquired the original in 2005), it is the kind of place where you can idle over a perfect cup of coffee at an antique pub table or sidle onto a velvet banquette for a garlic-roasted chicken. Dishes are drawn from a century's worth of Benoit recipes; decades-old photographs of La Côte Basque patrons adorn the walls. But this evocation of a Left Bank bistro smack in the center of New York still feels fresh.

Clearly, there are second acts in American life. Just ask chef Ducasse.

Click here for more on Ducasse's Le Jules Verne, in the Eiffel Tower.

Published on 8/20/2008
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