Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte NYC

Many restaurants feature steak dishes that use the word entrecôte as part of their name, however the name L'Entrecôte has become synonymous with three iconic groups of restaurants owned by two sisters and one brother of the Gineste de Saurs family, which specialize in the contre-filet cut of sirloin and serve it in the typical French bistro style of steak-frites. It began in 1959, when Paul Gineste de Saurs purchased a small Italian restaurant called Le Relais de Venise in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, near Porte Maillot. A descendant of the Gineste de Saurs family in southern France, Paul was seeking to establish a steady market for the wines produced by the family's Château de Saurs winery in Lisle-sur-Tarn, 50 kilometres northeast of Toulouse. In place of the previous Italian menu, he decided that the restaurant would offer the traditional French bistro meal of steak-frites as its only main dish, with no other option. Whereas most restaurants served steak-frites with herbed butter, Le Relais de Venise instead served the dish with a complex butter-based sauce, often referred to as Café de Paris sauce, along with a simple starter of lettuce topped with walnuts and a mustard vinaigrette. Despite serving only one main dish and offering a very limited selection of wines, the restaurant flourished and became a Paris institution. 

Cuvée Le Relais de Venise Bordeaux 2010

Following the death of Paul Gineste de Saurs in 1966, his daughter Hélène Godillot took control of the original restaurant at Porte Maillot and now oversees all of the new global openings to ensure all aspects of the unique dining experience created by her father are faithfully maintained: from the colourful paintings of Venetian scenes that adorn the walls to the waitresses’ black and white uniforms and even down to the precise width of the hand made frites. Her branch of the family now have five additional locations operated under licence by Steven and Michael Elghanayan: three in London, one in Bahrain, and one in New York on Lexington Avenue at 52nd, conveniently located near MOMA, which is where we often dine after visiting the Museum for our annual 'fix' of steak-frites. The recipe for the sauce which accompanies the steak still remains a closely guarded family secret. Over the years, many have tried to replicate the sauce but none have succeeded.

Green Salad with Walnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette

The servers at Entrecôte, dressed in black uniforms with white aprons,  
serve the steak frites table side from silver dishes brought direct from the kitchen

Entrecôte's atmosphere is a key part of the formula, and is as important to their success as their cuisine. Each restaurant has the typical look of a French brasserie with wood panelling and wall mirrors, closely spaced tables, and bench seating in red upholstery. All the servers are women, dressed in black uniforms with traditional white aprons — no male staff are visible. The restaurants don't take advance bookings, but each time we've lunched at Entrecôte in NYC after visiting MOMA, the restaurant has been bustling. They obviously have the recipe for success. Scouring the internet for their secret sauce, Chef Marco Pierre White's recipe appears to be the most consistent ingredients for a classic Café de Paris butter — bon appetite!

Entrecote Steak & Frites with their signature secret sauce - entrecôte is the French word for ‘rib-eye’

Café de Paris Butter
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy Marco Pierre White

2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp capers
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 anchovy fillet, minced
Juice of one lemon
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 sprig fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 tsp ground black pepper
Zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp curry powder
Pinch cayenne
1 lb softened butter

For the steaks:
6 Rib-eye steaks, 1/2-pound each
Oil as desired
Sea salt to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients except the butter in a bowl and place in refrigerator overnight. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the butter for 4-5 minutes on medium. Blend the refrigerated ingredients in a blender to make a smooth paste, then fold into the whipped butter.  Form the butter into logs about 1.5 inches in diameter. The best way is to spoon the butter onto a piece of plastic wrap, roll tightly and tie the ends. It is best to make three or four shorter rolls. Freeze the butter until needed.

To assemble, season the steaks with the oil, salt and pepper and place on a hot grill. To achieve medium rare, cook 3-4 minutes on each side for a one-inch steak. As the steaks cook, unwrap the butter and cut three medallions for each steak. Once the steaks reach medium rare place the butter medallions on top and flash under a hot broiler just until they start to melt. Serve immediately.

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