Friday, October 21, 2005

A Boatload of Fun...or Two

So as the week wound down, we found ourselves each getting a tad run down due to a combination of less-than-necessary sleep, a change in the weather, lots of work, and the notion that Tuesday, the day Kaia is scheduled to leave, is rapidly approaching. So last night, instead of us doing what made sense -- home, a quiet dinner in and then early to bed -- we decided instead, of course, to go out.

The good news it was worth it. We'd been talking about visiting Les Halles for at least three months; the back story is, if I haven't already covered it, a chef who happens to host a show called "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network by the name of Anthony Bourdain impressed the hell out of me. He's sort of a Lou Reed/Mark Knopfler meets Emeril Lagasse type, without all the loudness. Picture wit, New York-centric sarcasm, and the pretzel logic of Steely Dan, and voila -- there's Mr. Bourdain. The aforementioned "A Cook's Tour" is both a show, in which Mr. Bourdain visits a variety of places all over the world in search of the "ideal" meal, and a book which I enjoyed immensely. Bourdain is incredibly laid back, but intensely competent and passionate about what he does, and what he does, incidentally, is cook incredible, classic French food. Les Halles is a bistro-type restaurant, which means it's relaxed, casual and noisy, but the food -- which is prepared and/or overseen by Executive Chef Anthony Bourdain -- is incredible.

We decided to finally stop by after not making it during Kaia's last three visits. It's not that we were hesitant; it's just that we consistently visited Balthazar, another incredible bistro restaurant further downtown, and by the time we'd ingested escargot, duck confit, turbot and the ubiquituous french onion soup there, it seemed redundant to do the same at Les Halles within a week's time. So last night was a long time coming; while it wasn't incredible, it was pretty damn close.

The restaurant is known, apparently, for its beef -- those are two cows noisily kissing in the homepage graphic -- so while we started with onion soup for Kaia and escargot for me, she chose perfectly-prepared roast chicken, replete with frites and salad, and I opted for a rib-eye with frites salad as well. Nothing fancy, nothing tricky -- just a great dinner, albeit a bit too much thereof. The ribeye was awesome, but that chicken dish -- suffice to say I don't think I've ever had better chicken -- ever.

I apologize if it seems like I'm extolling the virtues of our food last night. The truth is the restaurant could stand a bit of polish -- it was loud, even though we had a window table which was noticeably quieter than those in the middle of the restaurant -- and it took about 40 minutes for us to be seated. But on the other hand, dinner was really wonderful. The only thing missing was Mr. Bourdain, who had flown out of New York that morning, presumably for a new Food Network assignment. Had he been in residence, I would have asked him to sign a copy of one of his books. But it's not about signatures, meeting a celebrity chef, being among the pretty people, or being in the "right" place, that made it worth a visit. It was just incredibly tasty eats.

Our plans for tonight, he wrote with an anticlimactic flourish, are going out with a small group of friends for sushi. A friend of ours, like Kaia, is visiting from Cali until Sunday or Monday and we wanted to get everyone together for a small, relaxed, laid-back sushi-fest. And after last night's calorie-heavy fare -- even omitting dessert -- it will be nice to have some sensible food and some low-key fun with good people. That's really what these weekends are all about where we get a bunch of friends together for food, drinks and laughs. Eventually, she and I will have a large kitchen and enough room to host a dozen people without thinking twice, and we'll wind up having people come by (or us to them). But in the meantime, knocking back some sushi and a few rounds of warm sake isn't a bad way to wind down a week, a night, or an out-of-town stay.

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