A new owner and serious cooking have brought this bellwether gem of French gastronomy back from the edge, with French Laundry alums Nicholas Fanucci and chef Walter Abrams providing the talent Le Bec needs to someday rise to the top again. But while the $150 eight-course menu has extraordinary moments of modern inspiration, it hasn't hit its full stride yet. Even more concerning, aside from astronomical wine prices, the decision to restore the room's stuffy classical look rather than undertake a bolder revamp risks relegating the institution to the aging demographic that doomed the original as a relic in the first place. Dinner eight-course menu, $150; lunch five-course menu, $55. Chez Georges entrees, high $20s.
Amuses-bouches (scallops and tomatoes; caviar tea sandwiches; goat confit; fluke sashimi); truffled omelet with Mimolette cheese; chilled borscht; foie gras; rabbit merguez with arepa; grilled cobia; scallop with kaffir lime tapioca; Lava Lake lamb; St. Canut Farms pork; mushroom "risotto"; apple cider shooter; napoleon of cream cheese; milk chocolate and passion fruit gateau; mignardises. Chez Georges: boeuf bourguignon; bouillabaisse; coq au vin.
Amiable sommelier Philippe Sauriat has nearly tripled the old cellar to 850 labels, 60 percent are French, 30 percent American, and 100 percent priced for those with Grand Cru wallets. The double to triple markups themselves aren't unusual, with prestige bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Napa that expense accounts will find fair. But for mere mortals there are far too few choices under $100 a bottle. And though wines by the glass are uniformly outstanding, prices hitting the mid $20s are a put-off.
Easy conversation at 78 decibels. (Ideal is 75 decibels or less.)
Lunch Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Monday through Saturday, 6-10 p.m.