Are you looking for sexy, French bistros that will impress everyone from your parents, to your boss to your secret lover? I found 2 great spots in Midtown Manhattan that will do the trick!
It’s been more than 20 years since I enjoyed the French bistros of Paris. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of returning to the “City of Light.” I’m sure I’ll make it happen soon. In the meantime, last week I returned to my hometown of New York City, the ultimate global melting pot, for a long weekend with friends and family. While I had planned on visiting a few of my favorite restaurants, my good friend, Denyse, introduced me to two French bistros I had never tried. I have not stopped talking about them. It’s time I share all the fabulous details with you here on the blog!
I touched down at LaGuardia Airport on a Thursday afternoon and
grabbed a taxi to the Upper East Side where Denyse has an apartment. After spending a leisurely few hours roaming the streets and taking in the familiar sites and smells of my NYC, I met Denyse for a relaxing dinner at Jubilee in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay neighborhood. It’s a lovely French bistro with a British/Irish feel. Sounds odd, right? And yet, somehow it works. Upon entering this neighborhood jewel, I was immediately transported from the gritty streets of Manhattan to a beautiful European oasis.
Jubilee is located just 3 blocks east and 1/2 block south of the 53rd/Lexington Ave. stop along the MTA E and M trains. You can also take the #6 or #4 trains to 51st/Lexington Ave. From there, walk 3 blocks east and 1 1/12 blocks north.
After we had settled in with two glasses of Sancerre, I started things off with a comforting bowl of potato-leek soup. It was super flavorful, yet not at all too creamy. Score! I did not want to feel weighed down before digging into my main course. I did, however, eyeball the beautiful looking bowls of French onion soup, dripping with gruyere which graced the nearby tables. I’ll be back again to check that out. Soup is my favorite food group 😉 I know I always mention that fact in my blog posts, but it bears repeating. If I had to choose a “last meal,” soup would be featured as my appetizer, main course and dessert 🙂 Just saying…
Jubilee’s menu has all of the “usual suspects” found at traditional French bistros. In addition to French onion soup, you can find beef bourguignon, Dover sole meunière, escargot cassolette, duck Foie gras, paté, niçoise salad with tuna, omelets, Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame, just to name a few. All of those dishes looked and sounded fabulous. However, all bets were off when I saw the blackboard of moules or mussels on offer at Jubilee. C’est Magnifique! It was, without a doubt, the largest selection which I have ever seen at any restaurant. There were about ten different types of mussels from which to choose. I felt giddy and a bit dizzy. I could hardly contain my excitement 🙂
Being from the east coast and New York City, in particular, I always look forward to coming home for fresh shellfish. The Midwest has trout, salmon, and whitefish but the shellfish which is flown in from the east and west coasts are just not fresh enough for my taste. When you grow up enjoying crustaceans served the very same day they are plucked from the local waters surrounding New York City, it is hard to tolerate anything else. I’m not a snob. I’m just truth-tellin’! The line-up of mussels at Jubilee include curry, Catalan, Provencal, marinière, Asian, poulette (creamy chicken broth, mushrooms, chives, white truffle oil) to name a few.
I chose the mussels marinière made with white wine, shallots, and parsley. This is a very traditional style found at many French bistros. Usually, restaurants have just one other preparation. Jubilee went the extra mile for its customers 🙂 Denyse chose the mussels provençale (seen above). They were broiled on the half shell versus prepared in a typical soup pot with flavored broth. They were garnished with a ton of garlic and parsley butter. It was a simple dish but beautiful and delicious. Like a new crush on a boy, I cannot stop thinking about it.
The next night, we met our friend, Yana, at Saju Bistro in the Theater District near Times Square. Just like Jubilee, Saju Bistro is an elegant, and cozy place. It has a neighborhood feel, but it also has quiet nooks and crannies to enjoy quiet conversation or canoodling 😉 The staff at both restaurants were phenomenal. They were pleasant, engaging and funny. They took great care of us.
Saju Bistro has a diverse seafood selection. We each gravitated toward that side of the menu. Denyse chose a simple yet flavorful salmon and asparagus over potatoes.
I had the best Mediterranean sea bass ever! It was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Crispy, tender zucchini rode shotgun while super-sweet caramelized onions topped the fish. An herb-laden, lemon vinaigrette made this dish sing.
Last but not least, Yana ordered the mixed grilled seafood platter. It came with mussels, clams, octopus shrimp and asparagus. All of the fish had a perfect, smoky, grilled char and flavor. The simple wedges of lemon were all that were needed to accent this plate of wonderful.
The next time you are looking for French bistros in New York City that will impress your family, co-workers or a date, I suggest you put Jubilee and Saju Bistro on your “go-to” restaurant lists.
Jubilee is located at 948 1st Avenue. It is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Saju Bistro & Bar Restaurant is located at 120 W. 44th St. , inside the Mela Hotel. It is open seven days a week from 7 am – 12 am. Click here for more information.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the MTA trains to Jubilee and Saju Bistro Bar & Restaurant. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!