With a flick of his spatula, so it seemed, Alain Allegretti recently flipped his Chelsea yearling, La Promenade des Anglais, into the easier-said Bistro La Promenade. But the change is not merely cosmetic.
Out go the substantial French-Mediterranean references in Allegretti's cuisine, including his excellent pastas. In comes a conventional bistro menu, by Balthazar out of Le Singe Vert. Allegretti goes steak-frites.
One might expect Bistro La P. to represent another step down the path, but prices remain about the same, and signatures from La P. des Anglais remain on the menu. I suppose it's easier to sell people something which presents itself as everybody's neighborhood brasserie, and not as a moderately upscale restaurant.
I dropped by for a quick dinner. No pastas, as I said (but a seafood risotto), and no more of Allegretti's sensational rouget, but the kitchen still offers frog's legs. Pork belly, frisée aux lardons, and steak tartare are among the predictable cloud pleasers on the new menu, and there's a rote of daily specials, ranging from the obvious (veal meatballs, coq au vin) to the tempting (boudin aux pommes).
I started out with the creamy clam-prosciutto croquettes, one of my favorite snacks of 2011. Then I felt I had to put Allegretti's take on the classics to the test. He aced it, as he should.
Confit de canard properly crisped, with rich, dark meat under the golden surface. Even better was the cassoulet of tiny white beans on which it was served. In traditional country cassoulets, a layer of breadcrumbs is allowed to form a crust on the dish before being stirred into it. Here I found traces of crunchy breadcrumbs among the beans, as well as fresh herbs. A duck confit to put not a few other restaurants around town to shame.
The lamb chops are no longer crusted with fava beans and parmesan; they come on a white bean purée, with a few wild mushrooms. I tasted the meat, and found it good. I didn't taste a dish of roast cod with the dark Perugina sausages which seemed to feature on all Allegretti menus. I'm told it was excellent, and I believe it.
Dessert was a caramel flan, served upside down, with some appealing orange sugar cookies. Biscotti arrived with coffee.
The interior of the restaurant is much the same, and it remains an enjoyable, and affordable standby. I am slightly troubled that the city will not show up, and open its wallets, for the very finest cuisine Allegretti could provide. But we must all pay the bills, and I wish him well in this new incarnation.
Here's the website.