For my birthday last year, Mike took me to New York City to see a pair of performances at the Met and, on the day itself, to eat at the downtown location of Les Halles, the fabulous French brasserie founded by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. I’ve wanted to go there since my thoughtful husband gifted me with a copy of Mr. Bourdain’s hilarious (and well-written) cookbook, The Les Halles Cookbook. I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks as Mike read aloud the descriptive text of how to properly prepare Cote de Boeuf.
I can say, without reservation, that it proved to be one of the more memorable meals I’ve ever enjoyed, and, as Mike will attest, I’ve stored up quite a databank of meal memories. From the decor to the genially boistrous atmosphere to the mouthwatering steak frites, Les Halles screams Paris brasserie, but with a hint of that new world arrogant swagger that you’d expect out of Anthony Bourdain.
We feasted on big, juicy perfectly-grilled steaks and roasted veggies and lots of robust red wine–not to mention kir royales to start–and were pleasantly stuffed when the waiter coasted up with a cart at the table-for-two next to ours, which at Les Halles means about 3 inches away, and began to prepare Steak Tartare.
Now, as I said, we’d just finished a great meal and were awaiting the arrival of our dessert–it was, after all my birthday. But as we watched the skilled waiter deftly mix the onion, egg, capers, pickles, seasonings, and luscious raw steak, we were sorely tempted to cancel our dessert orders and tell him to just swing that cart on over to our table. I don’t remember when I’ve ever been so tempted by a nearly pure protein dish, when I was already plenty full. Full stomach temptation, after all, is usually the purview of the carb/fat combo that is most dessert offerings. But this was no mere mortal steak tartare. This looked like tartare nirvana!
After some agonizing moments, we kept to our original plan and had dessert (while drooling over the nearby stranger’s tartare) and vowed that on our next trip back to the Big Apple, we’d beat feet straightaway to Les Halles and treat ourselves to a heapin’ helpin’ of the tartare we missed–I wouldn’t care if the only reservation we could get was for breakfast! Although, with the passage of some time, I worry that the memory of it has developed into sort of the culinary equivalent of unrequited love and there’s always the danger that it might prove less perfect once realized.
Nah! I’ll risk it.
In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with the recipe out of my Les Halles Cookbook–which, I fear, will be like trying to duplicate any dish your mother did well; it’s never quite as good when you do it yourself.
If you enjoy reading a well-written cookbook, as Mike and I do, put the Les Halles Cookbook on your wishlist. If you’re a fan of steak tartare, click here, for the very recipe that I almost traded a Creme Brulee for on my birthday.