The classic French brasserie is a New York City staple, and while the fashion crowd have long been loyal to Balthazar, The Odeon and Buvette, there is a new arrival on Lower Manhattan’s scene — new, yes, but not entirely.
Simply called La Brasserie, the restaurant (open for lunch and dinner with weekend brunch on the horizon) takes over the famous Les Halles space on Park Avenue South, where Anthony Bourdain was the executive chef from 1998 and remained the chef at large until its closing in 2016. The restaurant was purchased by Francis Staub of the Staub cookware company and has reopened with plenty of references to Bourdain, as well as a new look at brasserie cooking.
Staub has been a fan of New York since he first started coming with his enamel pots and pans to sell them to stores and restaurants. He met Bourdain briefly but from then on went often to Les Halles.
“Mama mia, I said, ‘It’s an incredible place. The place is beautiful,’” he recalls. “‘Look at the floor. Look at everything, it’s fantastic.’”
He purchased the restaurant upon its closing and had hoped to reopen it shortly after, but was diverted because of the pandemic. Now La Brasserie is finally up and running, serving highlights like Bourdain’s recipe for steak frites, chicken paillard, hamachi crudo, arctic char, bouillabaisse and a Soufflé au Comté.
“I never want to do what other people are doing,” Staub says. “If you look at store pots, you see [Staub] is a special leader. I don’t want to be like all the restaurants. I want to be classic and innovative. Both. Tradition and innovation.”
The flooring and the ceiling from Les Halles were kept in their original state, as the new owner knew that many diners were partial to the ambiance and look of the restaurant.
“We have to never forget that the restaurant is not only about food. It’s a social meeting. We have to talk with people, to be happy with somebody, to meet new people. To have a drink with somebody and food,” Staub says. “And food, never forget, it is serotonin. If you always have dinner or lunch at your home, mama mia, it’s boring. You must sit outside with other people. I want to meet the other ones. And for me, there’s no better place than the restaurant.”
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