In the 1993 film My Boyfriend’s Back, a young man returns from the dead to take his lifelong crush to prom. Even as a zombie, he’s still nice and charming - but it turns out he lacks the je ne sais quoi of a living human being who isn’t rotting and doesn’t want to eat people. And on the rare occasion that we think about that movie, it reminds us a little of Pastis.
Pastis opened in 1999, when people talked about “surfing” the internet and there was enough meatpacking in the Meatpacking District to justify the name. The Olsen twins ate there. So did Sandra Bullock, Jude Law, and Lindsay Lohan. Then, in 2014, Pastis closed, and people said things like “RIP” and “I’ll miss that place.” But now it’s back, as a near-identical zombie version of its former self. The food is still great, and the space still looks like a bistro that grew up with the exclusive goal of being the Frenchest thing around - but nowadays, Pastis doesn’t feel all that exciting. It’s still useful, but there’s no need to go out of your way for it.
If you’re looking for this place, you’ll find it one block south of the original location, and you’ll recognize it as the spot that looks almost exactly like the old Pastis. It has the same white-tiled walls, the same oversized mirrors, and the same abundance of spherical light fixtures that make you feel like you’re dining inside of a sepia-tinted photograph. The new space is a little bigger than the original, but it gets just as busy - and seeing as how the Meatpacking District is now the premier destination for drinking vodka and tripping over cobblestones, the entrance tends to be packed with tourists and people who appreciate a good mirror selfie.
Fortunately for all of these people, the food here is still some of the best you’ll find in the Meatpacking District. Sure, the lengthy menu reads like a Word template titled “French Bistro,” and it’s about as exhilarating as a lukewarm shower on a 72-degree day - but there are few scenarios in which you don’t have a good meal here. There’s some very solid salmon tartare, for example, as well as some intensely garlicky escargot we’d order even if we had an upcoming appointment with a dentist we were secretly in love with. The trout amandine, with its layer of toasted almonds, is very good as well, and the juicy hanger steak frites would never be a bad choice either. And when your server asks if you’d like some complimentary bread, the best course of action is to say yes twice, on the off chance you’ll be given two servings.
If you awaken from a temporary blackout and realize you’re standing at the intersection of 9th and Gansevoort, know that you can get a very good meal here. Think of Pastis as your zombie boyfriend come back from the dead. It’s comforting and somewhat familiar, and it’ll briefly remind you of something that used to exist - just don’t expect to see Lindsay Lohan fresh off the set of Herbie: Fully Loaded. The times have changed, and she’s moved on.
Mostly, these escargots taste like an excessive (and delicious) amount of garlic and butter. The snails are really just there for texture, and seeing as how we aren’t currently lobbying for snail-flavored gum or potato chips, we’re very OK with this. Get an order for every two people at your table.
A quality steak covered in butter, with a pile of fries on the side. This is a very safe move, and it should be noted that the fries here are excellent.
Trout is better when covered in a layer of toasted almonds. If you’d like proof, order this crunchy, buttery Trout Amandine. This is our go-to fish entrée here, and it should be yours as well.
A simple plate of paté with some butter and pickled vegetables. It might not look all that impressive, but the paté itself is incredibly smooth with chunks of pistachio. Put all these ingredients on a piece of toasted baguette, and you have a very good bite of food.
Someone at your table will want to order chicken. Just be aware that the roasted chicken at Pastis can be a little dry, and the jus on the bottom is weirdly bitter. That said, we still think about the creamy, buttery whipped potatoes that come on the side. Given the opportunity, we’d chug several gallons.
Pasta is something you can skip at Pastis. This includes the boring appetizer that consists of a few ricotta ravioli, as well this bowl of pappardelle with chewy bits of rabbit. It’s by no means bad, but isn’t too memorable - and you’ll regret your order when you see someone else having steak.
Your server will ask you if you want bread and butter with your meal, and the correct answer is, “Yes, of course, what do I look like? Why would you ask that question? Seriously what do I look like? What’s going on here? Etc.” This place is from the people behind Balthazar, so the bread is understandably excellent.