We have lived for more than a decade in Murray Hill and have suffered the culinary consequences. So we spend most of our eating time out of the neighborhood. Brunch is particularly bad in our area with Penelope's being the only decent brunch (nice atmosphere not amazing food). Today we decided not to wait the 1-1.5 hour wait and walked further down Lexington to 29th st. So we feel guilty to report that we have passed Chez Le Chef maybe 100 times in the past and never ventured in. Today we went in and what a pleasant surprise. The place is overwhelmed with kitschy decor and a bit cramped downstairs but to our surprise there is nice seating upstairs as well. The owner/chef Frederic walks around in a chef's hat and a big smile. The place has been open 20 years and now we know why. We had the special of the day pain perdue (french toast) which had caramelized bananas. The dish was very good, not too sweat and clearly made with care. A nice sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar on top as well. The other entree was scrambled eggs with garden fresh veggies to which we added cheese. I have to say I was apprehensive. The menu description was simple and did not use any of the buzz words of modern menus. The result: a fantastic dish. The eggs were mixed with at least 8 different veggies (aspargus, broccoli, mushrooms, corn, etc), it was evenly coated with a great herb heavy coating and overstuffed into sourdough bread. For a veggie lover, really some of the best eggs I have had in a while - it reminded me of something we make at home. My wife who is a meatarian even loved it. We also had some excellent cappuccino and the fresh fruit smoothie was refreshing, not too sweet and quite delicious. On the way out we tried to pick up some fresh croissant with chocolate but he was all out. He said everything is baked fresh on premises each morning (what a rarity in Murray Hill). We are gonna head back at around 10 am next time to get them hot (FYI, the chocolate variety is only served on Thurs-Sun). Overall, a real gem of a meal (affordable to boot). We feel silly having missed out on it all of these years but will be regulars now. We only hope it stays open a long time (Frederic had a heart attack 3 years ago he said and he implied he my not push himself much longer especially considering the economy). Let's hope this oasis in Murray Hill endures!
Chez Le Chef
127 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016