Paname has flown under the radar since opening this past summer
Rumor has it, if you want to open up a French restaurant in New York, you should consult with Bernard Ros, who has owned and operated seven restaurants during his decades-long tenure in the New York City restaurant business. "The first thing I will say to you," said Ros with a distinguished French accent, "is to not do it. But if you are serious about it, then we can talk."
Two years after his prior restaurant closed, Ros has opened up his new Art Deco-inspired French bistro, Paname, this summer on 2nd Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. The cozy space, with a simple but modern menu is nestled between the tall, modern glass buildings of midtown East. Ros' last restaurant, Meli Melo on Madison, closed after it was damaged by a fire. Ros sought monetary reimbursement from the landlord in a lawsuit.
Although Ros is modest and relatively tight-lipped about the people he has helped over the years, he said that he has seen a former busboy open and run a successful French bistro, and he has seen people with years of experience close down. He is also brutally honest with people who consult with him. A 27-year-old young man from France who had owned a vineyard wants to open a restaurant on the Upper East Side with no prior experience. Ros tried to steer him away from the spot and toward midtown, but he didn't listen. The young man's restaurant never got off the ground.
"A good product and a good price will help you make it," said Ros. "It doesn't matter if you have the best chef in the world, if you have the wrong menu in the wrong neighborhood, it won't work. I don't believe with sticking to one formula. I am open to change."
Ros will be following his own advice and hoping for the best with this new place. With an informal education in French culinary cuisine, Ros is not the typical restaurateur or head chef. He is there seven days a week, running the restaurant, shopping for ingredients and tasting the dishes that come out of the kitchen. At his current place, he even busses the tables.
"It's very important to be there for each plate, to me that's not business it's dedication," said Ros. "If you want to see the chef, I am here. At restaurant groups, you never see the chef. You ask for him and he is opening up a new place in Chinatown."
The menu at Paname is classically modern French with simple dishes. Ros says the most popular dishes right now are the fish and steak chop. He is not trying to do anything trendy or groundbreaking for sure: his crème Brule, he assures his customers, is made with real cream, "not half and half" he says with mild disgust. And his succulent and tender salmon is simply coated with spices and lemon. The trick, he says, is to start with the quality product: the chicken, fish or steak, and to pay attention to sealing in the juices so that the meat or fish is not dry.
Just like his menu, Ros' method of marketing and PR is no-nonsense and old-fashioned too. He scoffs at the likes of Yelp, Zagat and Open Table. In fact, despite the restaurant having been open for six months, only a couple of TripAdvisor reviews, one Yelp review and two blog posts can be found with a quick Google search of Paname. He believes that asking the phone company for a number that is easy to memorize, and in going with a red and white awning to stand out, will go further than a high Zagat score.
"Zagat says 'they' liked the service or the décor, but who is this 'they' and what do they know?" said Ros. "I don't think this place will ever have a problem filling up."
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