Le Relais de l’Entrecôte
20, rue St.-Benoît, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 45 49 16 00. Lunch and dinner every day.
For additional locations, see their website.
“Quelle cuisson?” (“How do you want your steak cooked?”) is the only question they ask at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, which I would call a mill if I didn’t like it so much. Oh, who am I kidding. It’s totally a mill. And I love it.
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte belongs to a group that has three Paris addresses, plus outposts in Geneva and (sigh) Dubai, that serve nothing but steak and fries. I’m still not sure if it’s a Paris restaurant or a Paris-themed restaurant, but I’m also not sure I care.
Reservations aren’t accepted, so a line (of mostly locals at lunch, and a mix of locals and tripists at dinner) starts forming at the door before service. This is bad news if you’re impatient and good news if you don’t like to book. Actually, the line moves pretty quickly, and once you see les serveuses in action in the brightly lit, packed salle, resetting tables in a single motion, it’s easy to see why. Consummate professionals, they run the room in French waitress drag—short black dresses with starched white aprons—working pairs of forks with a skill rivaled only by their ability to remember (and find the time) to reapply their lipstick.
Someone swoops in for your drink order and cooking preference almost immediately (I like it saignant) and is back in no time with the walnut-studded salad that everyone gets, the leaves dressed in a textbook mustardy vinaigrette. Not long after, she’ll reappear with the main event, serving it up tableside and leaving what’s left in a chafing dish nearby. The meat is great—it’s actually a thin contrefilet, not an entrecôte—but the sauce is ridiculous. Herb-laden (I tasted tarragon, for sure) and buttery, it would probably make anything taste good. They know this. Don’t ask what’s in it. They won’t tell you. The fries, slender golden batons, are crisp and salty. Perfect, really.