When it comes to French cuisine, diners can often be filed into two categories: those that love it, relishing in time-honored preparations and cherishing traditional ingredients, and those that are afraid of it, potentially because they know nothing about it.
There are numerous New York French restaurants for French-loving foodies to get their foie gras fixes and for novice soufflé eaters to get their first tastes of the enchanting cuisine, and, thankfully, AAA has a service to help diners weed through the mediocre and not-so-great eateries, helping them discover the very best New York French restaurants.
Read on to learn about some of the best AAA Four Diamond New York French restaurants. Bon appetit!
About AAA Diamond Ratings
AAA’s diamond rating program sends expertly trained dining inspectors to restaurants across the country to evaluate and rate each area’s top eateries. The inspectors then report their findings back to AAA, helping to build travel guides for members, which can be found here, at your local AAA branch and on the AAA app.
The ratings are based on a variety of factors, from cuisine preparation and plating to restaurant décor and cleanliness, and range from One Diamond (generally quick-serve style restaurants) to Five Diamond (eateries that are leading-edge in the industry).
Five Diamond may be the highest rating, but it doesn’t always mean it is the best. Most of New York’s best burger joints, for example, have a One-Two Diamond rating, while many of the city’s best French restaurants have a AAA Four Diamond rating.
More specifically, AAA Four Diamond restaurants are defined as the following:
Distinctive fine-dining. Creative preparations, skillfully served, often with wine steward, amid upscale ambiance.
AAA Four Diamond New York French Restaurants
163 W Duane St.
The current incarnation of the much-celebrated chef David Bouley, the cuisine at Bouley highlights his expansive and evolving culinary expertise, French preparation techniques, fresh, seasonal ingredients and a commitment to nutritional wholesomeness. Diners select from a prix fixe or six-course tasting menu at dinner while ordering a la carte at lunch or off the five-course lunch tasting menu, all menus featuring constantly changing and varying dishes made from seasonal ingredients. Wine pairings are also available.
Inspector Notes: “Renowned chef David Bouley invites guests to a luxurious dining experience with dishes made of fine, seasonal ingredients and prepared with deft culinary skill and artistry.”
20 E 76th St.
The cuisine at this AAA Four Diamond restaurant is inspired by classic French preparations, seasonal ingredients, vegetable-laden creations and influences of global fare. The staff serves three meals a day in the café-style eatery complete with outdoor seating in the warmer months, offering a truly Parisian ambience. Dinner menu items include traditional foie gras terrine and chilled pea soup in addition to changing, creative plates highlighting seasonal meats and local market vegetables.
Inspector Notes: “A smart, sophisticated dining room in subtle hues provides a lovely backdrop for a perfectly executed meal. The menu features classic French dishes, seasonal market specialties, creative vegetable dishes and deft preparations showcasing exotic world flavors.”
db bistro moderne
55 W 44th St.
db bistro moderne offers a contemporary bistro experience highlighting classic dishes with undercurrents and influences of traditional French preparations and seasonal ingredients. Popular menu items include the escargot fricassee, coq au vin and the signature “DB Burger” stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle.
Inspector Notes: “This sleek and sophisticated eatery is a great chance to experience Daniel Boulud’s culinary designs in a gorgeous bistro setting…Lively and animated, it is a popular pre-theater pick and is also open for a most urbane breakfast.”
151 E 58th St.
The brainchild of notable New York City restaurateur Sirio Maccioni, Le Cirque has been a landmark eatery for many decades, currently located in the Bloomberg Building. Dining at Le Cirque is more than having a meal, it is both a social and culinary experience, as diners will witness a who’s-who of the city parading through the dining room while enjoying the two- or three- course lunch prix fixe menu or dinner’s seven course prix fixe with optional wine pairings. Save room for the restaurant’s infamous “Crème Brulee ‘Le Cirque’” for dessert.
Inspector Notes: “This restaurant is the latest incarnation of Sirio Maccioni’s homage to all things over-the-top…The comfortable room still is the place to see and be seen for celebrities, politicians and captains of industry. The current menu includes some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, including ultra-refined Dover sole (deboned table-side) and trout amandine.”
3 E 52nd St.
Ornately decorated and infamous for its flower displays, the interior of the main dining room at La Grenouille has served as the backdrop for traditional French meals for several decades. Diners can choose from prix fixe or a la carte menus for both lunch and dinner. The menus list the traditional French dishes in their native language with English translations underneath and include traditional dishes such as “Grillotin de Ris De Veau” (crispy pan seared sweetbreads), “Oxtail au Vin de Bourgogne” (oxtail braised in red Burgundy wine) and, a nod to the restaurant’s name, “Les Cuisses de Grenouilles Sautées Provençale” (frog legs sautéed in butter and garlic).
Inspector Notes: “Classic French dishes are served by the polished and professional staff who will coddle, charm and help guests navigate the all-French menu.”
Perrine New York
795 5th Ave
Classic, elegant and exclusive are the vibes at Perrine, the “new French” style restaurant inside the opulent Pierre Hotel overlooking Central Park. The dinner menu offers simple preparations of steaks, poultry and seafood, or more elaborate daily specials such as the restaurant’s original coq au vin recipe and confit duck a l’orange. Lunch and brunch are also served, as well as an Americanized breakfast.
Inspector Notes: “The subtle niceties and upscale charms of The Pierre Hotel carry into this genteel dining room on Fifth Avenue, where seasonal French-American fusions fill a sophisticated and classic menu. Having breakfast here might remind a diner of taking a very civilized morning meal on a state of the art, luxury cruise liner.”
An aura of well done simplistic elegance, whether in regards to décor or cuisine, is apparent at this eatery that offers an Americanized twist on traditional French preparations. Dining is offered in the minimalist dining room enclosed by weathered brick walls or by special reservation for multi-course offerings at the chef’s counter. The dinner and brunch menus themselves are short and sweet, each only one page. Dishes include a roast duck served with frisée, pistachio and pickled red onion, hanger steak with beurre maître d’hôtel and sauce bordelaise and a roast chicken for two with confit potatoes and lemon preserve. The restaurant also boasts an impressive wine program.
Inspector Notes: “From the backstreets of Lower Manhattan comes this spot with a different take on excellent food. The name, when translated, is appropriate, for this rebel has a cause – to transition elegant French-inspired food, décor and service to a new generation.”
We’ve filled you in on some of the best AAA Four Diamond New York French restaurants, now it’s your turn! What are your favorite New York French restaurants? Tell us in the comments!