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Essential by Christophe: What to Order at the NYC Restaurant

Chef Christophe Bellanca focuses on French-inspired dishes he personally loves to eat, cook and share

by Terry Zarikian

November 11, 2023

Tasmanian sea trout micuit with shiso leaf and artichoke hazelnut agnolotti / Photo: Courtesy of Liz Clayman

Last winter, while dining at Eleven Madison Park, I was seated next to Christophe Bellanca, a former executive chef for Joël Robuchon. With confidence and excitement, he shared with me the news that he was about to open his own restaurant, Essential by Christophe, serving French-inspired dishes he personally loves to eat, cook and share. His establishment is now open, and its mission is emblazoned on one of the dining room walls: “To be creative is simple, but to understand what simple is can take a lifetime.”

Exterior on the Upper West Side / Photo: Courtesy of Liz Clayman

Bellanca oversaw the interiors in collaboration with prominent Parisian residential designer Caroline Egasse. He wanted people to feel at home, and everything he chose was bespoke. A striking dark blue vinyl and silk mural along the back wall adds a splash of color to the clean lines and beige tones of the restaurant.

Dining room / Photo: Courtesy of Liz Clayman

Used to excess while working at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Cirque, Bellanca here strips away all unnecessary flourishes to showcase what is “essential.” To help with decision making, the menu is divided into sections: Un, Deux and Trois, plus a dessert selection.

The pricing is $125 for three courses (choose Un or Deux, then Trois and dessert) or $165 for four courses (Un, Deux, Trois and dessert). An Essential menu consists of a seven-course experience chosen by chef Bellanca.

Among the best cold starters, the impeccable foie-gras torchon was cooked to a perfect rose pink, while the Zebra tomato with red king crab defined subtle, delicious simplicity. Warm starters included a blue prawn topped with Imperial caviar lightly dressed in a bright green dill and chive bouillon. Meanwhile, a brilliant Savoy cabbage marmalade formed a bed for the slightly sweet cooked scallop, with a fennel-shoyu sauce binding the ingredients in a harmonious way.


Entrées were extraordinary. The poularde, for example, a pedigreed guinea hen, was roasted and served with an Albufera sauce, one of the most popular daughter sauces of French cuisine. (Originating from a mother sauce, velouté, it is darkened by adding a meat glaze and often foie gras.) It was served with a side of sinfully silky pommes puree, which everyone jokingly refers to as potatoes whipped into pure French butter. The other winner of the night was wild black sea bass with razor clams, shiitake chutney and turmeric emulsion, showcasing Bellanca’s considered approach.