|No, not pasta. Sauteed calamari at Brasserie Lazare|
The food is almost aggressively classic. For example, Friday night's special is brandade de morue gratinée (cod and potato mash au gratin), popular throughout France (and Spain) but not something I like enough for a main course or that J likes at all. Other nightly specials are quenelles de brochet sauce nantua; saucisse de Toulouse, purée de pomme de terre; fricasée de volaille au vin jaune . . . well, you get the idea. Sounds old school, but I bet these warhorses, which are not easy to find, are very well prepared indeed.
I had an extraordinary plate of calamari, cut into noodles and sauteed with garlic, slices of a pepperoni-like sausage and Espelette pepper, followed by an excellent steak tartare (classic but with modifications, such as fairly large slices of parmesan scattered throughout). J had a good, but not memorable, salad of French green beans, artichoke hearts and hazelnuts with hazelnut vinaigrette, followed by a fine French adaptation of vitello tonnato (still, not as good as the sublime version at Saint Ambroeus in New York). We shared a boule of ice cream, salted caramel and two boules of sorbet, one bitter chocolate and the other "exotique," an extraordinary confection with a pineapple base, lots of ginger and a blend of other spices, including cardamom, one of my favorites.
Service is station-brasserie-like, i.e., fast by French standards. It is not easy to spend more than and hour and a half, and that's how they book, so this is not a place to linger over a long, leisurely dinner.
In sum, if you are nostalgic for the cuisine that got Julia cooking, or just want a good French meal, head for the Brasserie Lazare.