Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cafe D' Alsace: Worth The Trip

The Evolution of the Perfect NY French Bistro

New Yorkers have never had a problem locating a French bistro in a town brimming with international cuisine. From high end celebrity owned dining rooms to neighborhood eateries, finding the perfect plate of steak frites has become a rite of passage for the die hard NYC foodie.

I like my Steak Frites.

Since moving to New York, I’ve been impressed by the Tour De France NYC food group… a corporate gathering of 9 restaurants serving a variety of regional French fare. These include the very popular French Roast cafes (Parisian cuisine), L’ Express (Lyonnaise Cuisine), Maison (Cuisine of Brittany) and one of my UWS favorites, Nice Matin (Nicoise Cuisine).

Joining the family this year is a new star shining bright on the Upper East Side, Café D’Alsace… serving mainly Alsacienne fare.

First, getting to Café D’Alsace is simple. From the Upper West, you can fly across the park on the 86 bus and walk 2 blocks. If you find yourself in the neighborhood with time to spare, you’ll find Irish Pubs, German sausage shops and a variety of mom and pops with great stuff to eat and drink.

I love the look and feel of this place. It reminds me of numerous neighborhood joints in and around the Marais District in Paris… and that’s a good thing. It’s inside/outside setting makes the dinner experience even more special.

As far as hype, the Café launched with fanfare… but not pointing at it’s terrific food menu… but it’s beer selection. The beer listing is huge, and the selection is varied and eclectic. You’ll find many Café norms like Chimay and Stella… but you’ll also find micro-batch brews from Belgium, France and Germany. You can have some fun drinking your way through this menu.

As good as the beers are, the food is better. First, any place that has bone marrow on the menu has a warm place in my heart. But if bone marrow slathered on toast isn’t your thing, Café D’Alsace offers a dozen terrific apps including a simple Arugula Salad with roasted beets, a Foie Gras Terrine, a delicious cabbage and white bean soup, warm leeks with truffle oil and the dish I sampled… a warm Goat Cheese Tatin, that was out of this world.

It would be easy to plop down at Café D’Alsace and order the safe but outstanding plate of Steak Frites… but with fresh fish selections, lamb shanks with spaetzle, roasted Duck Breast, Wild Mushroom Ravioli and amazing homemade sausages (including duck, pork, seafood and boudin blanc) you may want to rethink your selection. Also available is a fantastic bistro burger with sweet onions and all the sides you’ve come to know and love when eating this type of fare.

Of course, the coffees are great… and have to be to keep up with an outstanding selection of desserts. Classic Crème Brulee, warm Brioche cake, Apple Tart, a decadent flourless chocolate cake… the list goes on and on. Throw in fresh sorbets and ice creams and you can expect a serious stomach ache.

As much as I love the UWS Nice Matin, I love Café D’Alsace even more. The neighborhood setting is a bit more gritty and unpretentious, the atmosphere even more authentic, and the food just downright great. I am guessing the neighborhood agrees… as the evening I ate there the place was jammed by 7:30.

Do yourself a favor, and hop on the bus, and get yourself up to the Upper East Side. Café D’Alsace is a slice of Europe in a charming spot… again proving that you don’t have to book a flight overseas to enjoy the best in euro eats. I’ll see you there.