Dark wood paneling, floor to ceiling mirrors, and cramped seating can’t be found at this French bistro.
Contemporary French restaurant Quality Bistro opened in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, January 28. This latest location from the Quality Branded food empire routinely turns convention on its head. It would be too gentle to say that Quality Bistro serves French food with a twist — it’s more like a turn — and the décor is far from the standard expected at a French bistro or a Midtown restaurant.
This “steak-centric brasserie,” as the restaurant calls itself, can be enjoyed for more than just its steak (though, we admit, there is only one vegetarian main course). Chef Antonio Mora, who has worked in various New York restaurants (Daniel, Frankies), harkens back to his classical French training for a menu that can hardly be reduced to the category of “contemporary French cuisine.”
Instead of the usual moules marinière, made in white wine with just a few other flavor accents, there’s Manila clams marinières, made with sake, citrus, and chili. The usually gruyère-heavy French onion soup is made with a blend of comté and gruyère, plus duck fat croutons. The tarte flambée is “Detroit tarte flambée,” cut into a square like the pizza after which the specialty is named, and served with pepperoni cups. Even the most basic salad — a caesar salad — has been altered: it’s served with chili breadcrumbs. Filet mignon, cuts of beef, and seafood are the stars of the menu, while one chicken dish, one lamb dish, one pork dish, and the vegetarian option bring up the rear.
Dinner aside, the cocktails and dessert are enough of a reason to go in. The Petit-Déjeuner, a cinnamon toast brioche creation with espresso sabayon, is hard to pass up. The cocktails are crafted by barman Bryan Schneider, or you can get a drink off the 400-bottle wine list of French and American wines.
The ambiance is light and airy, full of lush green plants (and one tree) and animal imagery. There are certain callbacks to classic French bistro decor — bulbous light bulbs, zinc surfaces, banquettes — present throughout the restaurant, but, like the food, they’ve been served up with a turn. The bulbous lights are features of custom-made light fixtures, the zinc surface (usually a bar) is present as tabletops, and the banquettes are plush, not leather.
The restaurant expects to be open for lunch and brunch later this spring.
Quality Bistro, 120 W 55Th St, New York, NY 10019. Bar open daily at 4:30 p.m. Restaurant open Monday-Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Website here.