Paname (slang for Paris), owned and operated by Restaurateur/Chef Bernard Ros, occupies a modest space between 56 and 57 Street on Second Avenue. A few years ago, when Ros found the place, he had the foresight to insist on a 15-year lease, which is why, as he tells it, he can still offer quality dishes at reasonable prices despite the catastrophic rise of rents – for mom and pop retail establishments — throughout the city. Ros’s foresight is our good fortune, because finding a moderately priced French bistro in midtown Manhattan – with entrees between $23 and $29 — is something of a miracle.
While there is an old-fashioned, Art Nouveau feel to the décor of Paname, and the menu is filled with traditional sounding favorites – from Escargots to Boudoin Noir with Choucroute – Chef Ros cooks and presents his dishes in an updated and sophisticated manner.
Butter on a Black Stone
The best way to experience the Chef’s approach is to order the 3-Course Prix Fixe Dinner ($43), which comes with a few extras. I could tell I was in good hands when two unusual Amuse Bouche arrived at the table — bites of salted anchovy and Porcini Pate — while we waited for the first course. Also, between the appetizer and main course, a miniature oval of creamless Cauliflower Soup – light and full of flavor – turned up. They were small but telling touches that suggested a refined and imaginative palate.
Cod Fish a la Nicoise
Duck, Oven Roasted
Each of us at the press dinner ordered a dish from the menu and we then shared the results. I was particularly pleased with my choices. First came a generous portion of Pate Maison ($12), a country-style Pate with a splash of salad, followed by Cod Fish a la Nicoise ($25), which turned out to be my favorite entree – a square portion of fish atop whipped potatoes sitting in a Tomato Fondant sauce. It hit all the taste high spots. A close second was the crispy yet moist portion of Duck with Barley, and Mango Sauce on the side ($29). Both dishes were perfectly executed.
The guys in our group ordered Paname’s Boeuf Bourguignon ($26). It’s not on the menu but available nine months of the year. If you are a meat person you will find it a first-class example of a complex dish that takes two days to prepare. Chef Ros loves to work with fish, and that’s evident in his Bouillabaisse in Saffron Broth with Garlic Aioli ($28). It’s difficult to equal the classic dish of Mediterranean France in New York, but this was a more than credible version. The pot included a generous variety of shrimp, cod, clams, mussels and fish. While I found the saffron broth a bit lacking in flavor, the garlicky aioli was perfect. Smeared on both the fish and sliced French bread ready to be dipped in the broth, the aioli brought the whole dish together.
Bernard Ros, Restaurateur/Chef
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream
The prix fixe includes a voluptuous parade of homemade desserts gorgeously decorated, beginning with an unusual house specialty, Violet Sorbet, another complimentary extra. (Ordered a la carte, the desserts are $9.75 each. A bargain.) Of all the desserts, my favorite was the Flourless Chocolate Cake – more like a dense fudge – while others preferred the Crème Brulee. Totally full, I still couldn’t resist the small Butter Biscotti that wrapped up our meal.
Paname is open for lunch (where entrees range between $14 and $26) and dinner. In addition to its a la Carte Menu, it offers a 2-Couse Prix Fixe lunch for $23, and a 3-Course Prix Fixe Brunch ($26), Saturday and Sunday. The Lunch, Dinner and Brunch menus are available at the bar.
I can’t imagine a more congenial and affordable place to meet friends and business associates for an outstanding midtown Manhattan meal. I look forward to returning, soon.
Photos by Eleanor Foa Dienstag
Paname French Restaurant
1068 Second Avenue (between 56th and 57th Streets)
Lunch: Noon to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday; Dinner: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Sunday; Brunch: Noon to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Happy Hour: Noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday.