| 17 Feb 2015 | 04:43

    For 50 delicious years now, Brasserie has been up and running, keeping more or less apace with prevailing tastes in French brasserie fare. Compared with what was being served in French restaurants in the 1960s, the dishes preferred today are considerably lighter, on the whole, and Brasserie's chef, Luc Dimnet, is right in step with contemporary tastes. Dimnet was executive chef at Brasserie from 2000 to 2005 and then he was chef/owner at Buffet de la Gare in Hastings-on-Hudson. In March of this year, he was beckoned back to Brasserie by the esteemed Patina Restaurant Group, who also own and operate the Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center and the Grand Tier at the Metropolitan Opera House, among more than two-dozen other restaurants on the East and West coasts. In 2000, when Dimnet first manned the stoves at Brasserie, the renowned architects Diller and Scofidio were brought in to give the restaurant a serious facelift. They slicked up the space, giving it gravitas and substance. The main dining room is pretty enormous, with a high, layered ceiling. Curvaceous wood rounds out the north and south sides of the room. On the west side is a long bar with a wall of frosted glass displaying rows of wine bottles and 15 television monitors in a row five feet above the bar. The restaurant is fairly loud, but if you luck into one of the padded booths along the east side of the space, you should be fine. Mixologist Tim Halbert has devised some clever diversions, especially his cucumber gimlet, a gamey blend of Hendricks gin, fresh lime and muddled cucumber. Its immediate effect is restorative-it makes you sit up and take notice and then drift along happily. Both our mercurial waiter, Pete, and Brasserie's dapper manager, David Pogrebin, declared the cocktail their favorite. A paper-wrapped crusty baguette is brought, with sweet butter. (New York restaurants seem largely to have outgrown the olive oil dipping phase. I guess it depends on where and when you grew up, but I grew up with bread and butter, and hope never to outgrow it.) Chef Dimnet is Alsatian, and that region's particular cuisine is all over his menu. A roasted beet salad features red and golden beets in a purpling row interspersed with soft goat cheese medallions, all dribbled with a sherry vinaigrette. A mini-pumpkin is lightly roasted, hollowed out, and filled with escargot and sage butter. Snails never had it so good. Fanny Bay oysters (my favorite, from the coastline of British Columbia) are firm and sweet, served with a frozen spicy and tomatoey granita, letting you feel like you're eating oysters in the snow. You don't encounter roasted pheasant on too many menus around town, and that's a shame, because the meat is rich and deeply satisfying, and especially juicy in younger birds. Dimnet roasts a halved young pheasant to juicy succulence, and plates it with halved baby Brussels sprouts-the smallest I've ever seen-and lightly chewy spaetzle that I found a bit too salty. A pale golden gravy brings it all together. Cassoulet is a voluptuous beany heaven, bubbling and hot, with chunks of sausage, and hunks of smoked pork belly and bone-in duck leg. Sultry frîtes come with a rich and irresistible Cajun mayonnaise, but resist you must, or you'll never finish your entrees. Aromatic truffled creamed spinach is perfection in a bowl, fluffier and leafier than usual. Pastry chef Ken Larson blessed us with chocolate beignets: pastry shells that are an amalgam of brioche and puff pastry, stuffed with molten bittersweet chocolate goo. Cashew brittle/butter pecan ice cream makes the perfect partner. A chocolate-banana tart had a chocolaty crust with peanut butter/chocolate ice cream, all sprinkled with chocolate sprinkles. Lemon sorbet is house-made and quite tart and lovely. With so many great French restaurants now gone, from Lutèce to La Caravelle to La Côte Basque, Brasserie is to be especially treasured. -- Brasserie In the Seagram Building 100 E. 53rd St. (Between Lexington & Park avenues) 212-751-4840 Entrées: $18 to $43 [](mailto: