Return to Previous Page

Restaurant Profile: Pastis

Restaurant Profile: Pastis
Step inside any bistro in France during the leisurely hours of lunch or dinner, and you'll find a small, comfortable eatery filled with neighbors and friends. Madame takes your order, while monsieur cooks at the stove. Daily specials are handwritten on a blackboard, a large piece of butcher paper covers each table, and lively conversations fill the air. Leaning against the zinc bar, locals gather to trade gossip over strong coffee. Waiters weave past, balancing sturdy plates of country pâté and frisée salad, onion soup and leeks vinaigrette, trout with almonds and steak with French fries.

You no longer need to fly to France to take part in this culinary ritual. Bistros are now settling into American neighborhoods with the same familiar ease. In cities from California to Connecticut, diners are learning how humble restaurants can bring together a community while serving comforting fare. Dependable stars of bistro menus—roast chicken, leg of lamb, steamed mussels and beef braised in red wine—are honest foods needing little adornment. These dishes capture the flavors of home-cooked family meals, favorites that warm and reassure.

Among the latest and brightest of these American bistros is Pastis in New York City. Tucked among the cobblestoned streets of the Meatpacking District, it reflects the ambience of a village bistro. Wines arrive in carafes, and diners share space at an 18-foot-long communal table. Named for the anise-flavored aperitif that warms the mouth to food and conversation, Pastis fulfills owner Keith McNally's promise to create a casual, convivial dining spot for everyday people. His attention to the details—worn white tiles, mismatched tables and chairs, giant antique mirrors and French fries served in paper-lined tins—transforms eating at Pastis into a mealtime voyage to France.

Follow his lead and re-create a corner of Paris at home. It's easy to prepare bistro dishes in your own kitchen. Rich stews and bubbling gratins are perfect for taking the chill off long winter nights. Traditional recipes call for inexpensive cuts, such as lamb shanks and beef stew meat, that are cooked slowly, warming your kitchen and filling the house with mouthwatering aromas. And with flavors melded together, these hearty dishes taste even better when reheated the next day.

Set aside an evening to share a bistro-style meal with family and friends, complete with soul-satisfying food and leisurely conversation. To inspire you, chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson from Pastis share some favorite recipes. Their Croque-Monsieur sets a sublime standard for ham and cheese sandwiches. Serve the Onion Soup Gratinée with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the rich broth. Salade Niçoise showcases the Mediterranean flavors of France's southern coast, while the beautiful Beet, Endive and Walnut Salad is a tribute to the winter season. Light, heavenly Floating Islands will end the meal with just the right touch of sweetness.

Bon appétit!