Alsatian Dining on the Upper East Side
Bordering on both Germany and Switzerland, the cuisine of Alsace is unique because it incorporates elements of France as well as its neighbors. It is quite peculiar that we find ourselves with two different Alsatian French restaurants on Second Avenue within a five block span. The first one is Café D’Alsace which is on the corner of East 88th Street, a larger more full menu-ed brasserie style restaurant. The second is a really cute “cheap eats” place on Second Avenue between 91st and 92st, hidden by all the disaster area caused by the construction of the new Second Avenue subway line called “La Tarte Flambée“.
I’ll keep this brief but give you the highlights of my experiences at both.
First, we’ll deal with Cafe D’Alsace, which is part of the empire of restaurants called collectively the Tour de France, NYC. The Tour group has outposts all over NYC which represent the different regions of France and their unique spin on French cuisine. I have to say that collectively I think they are quite good and have so far always been a reliable pick. I can personally attest to having eaten at L’Express (several times), Pigalle, French Roast Downtown, and of course Cafe D’Alsace.
Cafe D’Alsace brags an all-star chef Philippe Roussel. The place also has a very extensive beer menu and a beer sommelier. The dinner menu is actually quite extensive and has some interesting things like Grilled Homemade Sausages (the German influence I guess) and Charcuterie. The traditional French favorites Moules Frites and Steak Frites are also there, as are Escargots. Roberto has eaten the sausages each time we’ve gone, so those are good. I’ve tried the Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad, Homemade Lobster Ravioli, Roasted Free Range Chicken and Moule Frites and I’ve always enjoyed my meals.
We recently went for brunch and our experience was just so-so. I had the Crepes Bretonne with Pears and Chestnut paste which was way too sweet and kind of a liquid-y mess. They serve it with whipped cream (“Chantilly”) and that mixed with the chestnut paste made it too much liquid and sugar. Roberto had Pan Roasted Chicken Breast which he says ” was good, it was juicy”. He asked the waiter for hot sauce (his usual demand) and it never came. Is their chicken too good for a little hot sauce? We were sitting outside and it was typical NYC hazy hot and humid, crowded and noisy and our waiter didn’t seem to really care. We expressed our annoyance with a less than optimal tip. I would still recommend the place in general, it is one of the favorites of our neighborhood.
Next, La Tarte Flambée. This place is adorable and a great idea. They’ve taken a unique menu item from that region and run with it. It is a small restaurant with only a few tables, which are usually filled up. They also do a brisk Seamless web takeout business. The Tarte Flambée or Flammie as they like to call them, are like a light crispy pizza that uses a crème frâiche base, onions and lardons, along with another French white cheese. It is really really good. I have eaten there in person as well as done delivery service. I would recommend eating in person because the Flammie tastes a lot better just out of the oven. It is a bit worse for the wear after the time and trauma of the delivery guys.
The Flammie can be done either savory or sweet, depending what you are after. The menu is short, but has a few other Alsatian items, like “Knacks” and “Grumbeerekuechle”. My friend who I was dining with had the “knacks” which are (of course) sausages and those were good. I like the traditional Flammies. The restaurant is cheap and family friendly. I think they are holding their own despite the ugly location until the construction is finished (will it ever be??). If you have a chance I would definitely stop in.