La Grenouille – NYC

July 21, 2007

On July 19, 2007, Linda and I dined at La Grenouille, a classic old-fashioned midtown French restaurant. It still gets a 27 (ie: in the top 30 in NYC) for food in Zagats, which says: 

Among the last of the city’s “old guard”, this justly renowned Midtown French restaurant “serves up dreams” via “sublime” classic “haute cuisine” and “perfectly pitched service” in a “stunning”, “serene” space abloom with “famously” “gorgeous flowers.” 

The New York Times, which gives it three stars (excellent), says: 

“Now entering its fifth decade, La Grenouille is still giving lessons in how an elegant French restaurant should be run.” 

New York Magazine says: 

“With Lutece, La Cote Basque, and La Caravelle all six forks under, it’s thrilling that La Grenouille thrives.”

But we did not discover haute cuisine, perfect service or an elegant French restaurant. 

We were seated at a corner table where we could look out on the varied crowd and guess who they were, where they were from, what language they were speaking etc.  We ordered glasses of champagne for apéritif. Little puff-pastry hors d’oeuvres arrived with them. The amuse-gueule was a watermelon-cucumber gazpacho.

 sc.jpg Our wine was a lovely bottle of 2002 Prosper Maufoux “1er Cru Les Angles”  Volnay.  We frequently order Volnay from upscale restaurant wine lists as it can be a relatively good value. 




Linda started with seared sea scallops with cucumbers and tomatoes; she enjoyed them.



I started with the crab cake with shredded carrot and little dabs of aioli. It was all crab, a mushier texture than what I am used to, but a nice flavor. I would have liked more aioli. 



Linda then had the evening’s special: veal tenderloin with oyster mushrooms and gnocchi.  It was a good combination; the veal was flavorful and tender.



I went on to the veal kidney with mustard, flambéed with cognac, served with rice. The cognac flavor actually came through in the mild mustard cream sauce. The kidney pieces were nice and tender. We had watched  as the kidney was cut and then prepared in a chafing dish in the middle of the dining room, a sure sign of a restaurant which holds to its old traditions.  



For dessert we had soufflés Grand Marnier, served with a bit of vanilla cream sauce on the side. 

All in all, the meal was fine, but I would not agree with the high Zagats and NYT ratings. The touches of an excellent haute cuisine kitchen were not there. Both of our first courses were American in their execution: shredded carrots? diced cucumber? Our main courses were good bistro food. 

La Grenouille didn’t really seem French to us at all. The elegant Frenchman who welcomed us at the front door was not seen afterwards. The waiters were not French and did not know as much about French cuisine as they thought they did. The menus had English translations, which I understand is a new development. Our waiter was intrusively “helpful” and ingratiating. The décor was a parody of “elegant French.” They had put a table in the middle of the corridor leading to the main dining room. This concession to greed really wrecked the elegance of this area where the chic regulars are supposed to sit. We had an enjoyable meal, but it was not up to the reputation, the reviews, the history, our expectations or the price we paid, $440.


One Response to “La Grenouille – NYC”

  1. George Says:

    Dommage!! At one time I was working on an assignment and spent a great deal of time in NYC. I always stayed at the St. Regis and La Cote Basque and La Grenouille were two of my very favorites. Oh, the good old days of excellent French restaurants and unlimited expense accounts. Now they are both gone.

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