I was reminded of a Food Network show when I entered this French import. The show was about plate size and if smaller plates really make you eat less. I felt like this concept was being put to the test at Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote, a fabulous looking new bistro on Lex and 52nd. Thomas Rafael
This sprawling restaurant is sleek in its design with chocolate colored banquettes and linen table cloths that offer a European feel. But the tables are much too tight. And times must really be hard, if women are willing to wear the doudy French maid outfits seen here. Given that, my waitress was fabulous. She kept calling me "Sweety Pie". But the rest of the staff did not appear that friendly, looking more like they could fill in for "Nurse Jackie".
Aside from dessert, there really is no choice here. A $24 prix-fixe will get you a salad with a sprinkling of walnuts with a very thin layer of bland dressing. I had a good laugh when they table next to me asked if they could have some butter for the three skimpy pieces of bread served. I already knew the answer. The waitress politely replied, "No butter is served here." But don't dump the bread yet, trust me you'll need it.
That brings us to the steak. If you're expecting to be served an oversized hunk of beef one might find at Del Frisco's you're in for a rude awakening. What arrived was an appetizer size plate with a handful of fries and six thin strips of steak (think London broil). The meat is tender enough and the sauce topping it is terrific. The "secret" sauce is mustard green and buttery, and well worth sopping up with every last bit of those three skimpy pieces of bread. As I tried to savor every bite between sips of a nice Bordeaux, I couldn't help but wonder if this was it? Is this what a walked six blocks in the rain for? New Yorkers would simply rebel. That's when my waitress returned and said, "Sweety Pie, it's time for your second course." Second course. It was like a whole new world had opened up. But after another handful of rather lifeless fries and four more strips of rare beef I was back where I started. Hungry. Only now I was $40 dollars poorer (including wine and tip).
One way to fill up here may be with dessert. There are cream puffs smothered in chocolate syrup, and scoops of hazlelnut ice cream piled high. But I wasn't ready for dessert. I still wanted dinner and soon found myself munching on a slice of pizza.
Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote is great for a business lunch, a light dinner, or if you're on a diet. But two small plates do not equal one satisfying one. And if you're hoping to sink you're teeth into a nice juicy steak may I suggest Ben and Jack's or one of the many fine steakhouses New York has to offer. Unfortunately, the concept, while interesting, may need to be rejiggered for an American audience.
590 Lexington Ave (52nd St)
New York, NY