For my birthday last year, Mike took me to New York City to see a pair of performances at the Met and, on the day itself, to eat at the downtown location of Les Halles, the fabulous French brasserie founded by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. I’ve wanted to go there since my thoughtful husband gifted me with a copy of Mr. Bourdain’s hilarious (and well-written) cookbook, The Les Halles Cookbook. I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks as Mike read aloud the descriptive text of how to properly prepare Cote de Boeuf.

I can say, without reservation, that it proved to be one of the more memorable meals I’ve ever enjoyed, and, as Mike will attest, I’ve stored up quite a databank of meal memories. From the decor to the genially boistrous atmosphere to the mouthwatering steak frites, Les Halles screams Paris brasserie, but with a hint of that new world arrogant swagger that you’d expect out of Anthony Bourdain.

We feasted on big, juicy perfectly-grilled steaks and roasted veggies and lots of robust red wine–not to mention kir royales to start–and were pleasantly stuffed when the waiter coasted up with a cart at the table-for-two next to ours, which at Les Halles means about 3 inches away, and began to prepare Steak Tartare.

Now, as I said, we’d just finished a great meal and were awaiting the arrival of our dessert–it was, after all my birthday. But as we watched the skilled waiter deftly mix the onion, egg, capers, pickles, seasonings, and luscious raw steak, we were sorely tempted to cancel our dessert orders and tell him to just swing that cart on over to our table. I don’t remember when I’ve ever been so tempted by a nearly pure protein dish, when I was already plenty full. Full stomach temptation, after all, is usually the purview of the carb/fat combo that is most dessert offerings. But this was no mere mortal steak tartare. This looked like tartare nirvana!

After some agonizing moments, we kept to our original plan and had dessert (while drooling over the nearby stranger’s tartare) and vowed that on our next trip back to the Big Apple, we’d beat feet straightaway to Les Halles and treat ourselves to a heapin’ helpin’ of the tartare we missed–I wouldn’t care if the only reservation we could get was for breakfast! Although, with the passage of some time, I worry that the memory of it has developed into sort of the culinary equivalent of unrequited love and there’s always the danger that it might prove less perfect once realized.

Nah! I’ll risk it.

In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with the recipe out of my Les Halles Cookbook–which, I fear, will be like trying to duplicate any dish your mother did well; it’s never quite as good when you do it yourself.

If you enjoy reading a well-written cookbook, as Mike and I do, put the Les Halles Cookbook on your wishlist. If you’re a fan of steak tartare, click here, for the very recipe that I almost traded a Creme Brulee for on my birthday.


  1. I live near the downtown Les Halles and I eat there a lot. My girlfriend loves the mussels, I go for the steak or chicken frites (gf eats the frites), or the pork tenderloins, or the salmon. Their country pate is very nice too. Haven’t tried the tartare – not a big fan – but I’ll be brave and try it out next time I go.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Okay, so I’m utterly jealous that Les Halles is your neighborhood bistro. You lucky dog. Please do have the tartare next time you’re in and report back.

  2. my gf and I actually ended up going that very night – you inspired us! I had the country pate, and then the tartare… that was a new experience in taste and especially in texture. , I guess I’m not used to eating such soft food for my main entree. I liked it, except it tasted to much of catsup or Worcestershire sauce or I dunno, something in it was a little too overpowering. But I feel like I broke thru a barrier – I’ll definitely try it again, at les halles and maybe at some other spots too.

    Last time I had tartare was when I was 16 (I’m 50 now!) and I ordered it without knowing what it was, much to my parents amusement. They had great fun laughing at me when the big blob of raw meat was delivered from the kitchen. I ended up sending it back because there was just no way I was gonna eat that kinda thing at the time. Things do change!

  3. ………………maybe this won’t be seen but if you ever fancy a good tartare at the most wonderful and chaep place in Paris le bariballe on rue Vaugirad is where its at sister. Metro Pasteur or Sevres Lecourbes

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Thanks! We’re always in the market for a great tartare; next trip to Pris, we’ll hop over and try it!

  4. My favorite place for steak tartare is Bofinger – great old style Bistrot near Bastille with all the old favorites.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Which Bastille, the real one, in Paris? If so, I’ll add it to my list of Paris restaurants I want to visit next time we go!

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