Just like Peanut Butter & Jelly, when two things fuse together really well, it generally means that people are really going to enjoy it. That can be said and more for Ponty Bistro, with two locations in Gramercy Park and Harlem, who for over eight years has blended the best of French & West African cuisine for the masses of people who come in to enjoy. I got to experience their delightful Gramercy Park location last night, and was incredibly impressed not only by the food and decor, but how the restaurant came to be in the first place.
Ponty Bistro was founded eight years ago by two chef cousins, Elhadji Cisse and Ali Cisse, who worked their way up in the culinary world from dishwashers to full blown restaurant owners. The former was actually a finalist on the incredibly popular Food Network show “Chopped”, and has done quite a lot in his 20 years of being in The United States since he left his home country of Senegal back in 1996.
The Gramercy Park location is the original, with the Harlem location being opened for about two years now. What is so impressive about this, outside of the food (which I’m getting to), is that to make a concept like this thrive and stay alive in a very competitive market is very impressive. Also, for these guys to work their way up from where they were to working for some of the biggest names in the culinary game such as Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, really speaks to their drive and ambition, something that I respect wholeheartedly.
The location itself isn’t large in size, but its a bistro… it really shouldn’t. It is a great location for the summer time as the window part towards the front is left open for the customers to experience a cool breeze while enjoying their delicious cuisine. I love the shades of red that’s adorned throughout, as well as the beautiful wood floors that really give it a great balance of colors.
The food itself really was executed to perfection, as the chefs treated me and a guest to a tasting of some of their standout dishes. We started with their Calabash, otherwise known as Butternut Squash soup. Something I loved about this soup was that there was an incredible depth and flavor to it, and paired really well with the scented bread they provided. A common theme throughout all the dishes that I noticed is that there is a great amount of flavor and spice, but it NEVER overwhelmed my palate at all.
Take, for instance, their take on Mussels called “Moles Africana”, in other words Mussels with an African spice sauce. I for one, am a huge fan of Mussels, and the sauce they provided was top notch and tasted absolutely phenomenally. It was my favorite dish of the night honestly, as I couldn’t get enough of both the Mussels and sauce. Amazing.
There were several other standout dishes however, that really exemplified how great Ponty Bistro is. For one, their Niokolokoba, which is Grilled Sirloin Steak with some Senegalese spices, french fries and served with an au poivre sauce. Essentially, it is a very unique twist on the typical “Steak & Fries” you can get anywhere, yet the spices really sang well with the sauce and fries, and the steak was cooked to perfection.
If you are more of a seafood lover, look no further than their Poisson Yassa, which is Pan Seared Bass with julienne vegetables and rice. Such a simple dish that doesn’t make you overtly full, yet is cooked very well and has all the right flavors and textures to make a dish like this really pop.
Ponty Bistro is open not only for dinner but also for Brunch, Lunch and has an Early Bird Menu as well. I highly recommend anyone trying this place out, as you will really enjoy the blend of flavors, spices and so many other aspects that make them standout amongst the crowd. For more information on Ponty Bistro, check out their official site.