Ok, I admit it: I lived in Paris for years, but I have never been to Le Relais de Venise "L'entrecote" over there! The story of this restaurant and its concept are pretty interesting: in 1959, a winemaker named Paul Gineste de Saurs decided to buy an Italian restaurant in Paris with the intention to use it to showcase the wine produced by his family, Château de Saurs. As he had no experience in the restaurant business, he decided to keep the Venetian decor, add L'entrecote (strip steak) to the name and propose a single item menu: steak frites. Instead of serving the steak with the traditional butter with parsley, he served it with what is still today a secret sauce (I would guess some butter,mustard, taragon and pepper, but would not bet on it!). Few years ago, Le Monde, a French newspaper revealed in an article the secret of the sauce: it contains blanched chicken liver. The owner of the restaurant denied this.
Since then, the restaurant has been opened in different locations such as London or Barhein. And then New York in 2009, where I had the chance to experience the concept. Now, understand that when the restaurant opened in Manhattan, critics thought it would not last long because New Yorkers like to have choices! In this restaurant, the only choices are the wine, the cheeses and desserts (you can see a sample when entering - very smart)! Otherwise, it is a salad (lettuce with walnuts and a traditional french dressing) for appetizer and steak frites (steak and fries) for the entree.
The waitresses are all wearing French Maids outfits and will only ask you two questions besides knowing if you would like some drinks:
1 - Is it your first time in the restaurant?
2 - How would you like your meat to be cooked? They only offer blue, rare, medium and well done. There is no medium-rare for instance!
They will draw on the paper clothe the tables seats and will mark your choice on it, probably to remember what temperature you would like for your second serving. Yes, you read it correctly: Le Relais de Venise L'entrecote serves a second serving of steak frites! But do not imagine the portions are huge. I see several advantages to this:
1 - The second serving comes warm.
2 - Some people have a small appetite; so it is a win win for the restaurant as they will charge the same amount.
3 - It gives customers a sense they made a very good deal.
|The salad (lettuce, walnut and mustard dressing)|
Some may say that the meat is low quality. Those who know me, know that I rarely order steak if the restaurant is not a Steakhouse for two reasons: the quality of the meat is usually low and they do not always know how to cook it perfectly. In New York, Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote serves a Sirloin (Entrecote is normally strip steak as mentioned before) that was good and cooked as requested. I personally think it was delicious, especially paired with that mysterious sauce. The meat was very tender.
The fries are traditional French cut (shoestring) and were crispy and not over salted. They had a delicious taste mixed with the sauce...
Last, is of course dessert! Their dessert menu is pretty impressive as it contained that day 17 choices! From the simple fraises au sucre (strawberries with sugar) to the vacherin du relais. This one is an interesting tower made of vanilla ice cream, meringue and chocolate ice cream, in repetitive layers, topped with whipped cream and a thick chocolate sauce. This was good but extremely sugary (I believe the chocolate sauce is the culprit)! I could not finish it.
I definitely had a good time in this restaurant that had an authentic brasserie feel. The food was delicious and the service very efficient. The only negative is the fact that it was very, very warm in the restaurant, to the point where it became uncomfortable. That should be an easy problem to fix...
Enjoy (I did)!
And remember: I just want to eat!