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Wonderful food, but arrogant service: Ile de France in Goshen, NY

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Wonderful food, but arrogant service: Ile de France in Goshen, NY

Simon Gruber | Apr 15, 2002 10:10 AM

I'd been hearing about Ile de France for several years. A Frenchman arrived in Goshen some time ago and took over this fairly small space a few steps from the very heart of the downtown Village of Goshen (where five roads intersect.) He also runs a take-out bakery and sandwich shop across the street, which I frequent as often as possible, having become addicted to the creme brulee (the pastries are also excellent)... but I digress.

Ile de France is very much a French restaurant, and overall the quality is extremely good. However, there are a few problems, which may or may not emerge on any given visit. Our food, at a recent Saturday lunch, was wonderful. The lunch entrees are, unbelieveably, near or even under $10. This for salmon, lamb chops, etc. (Dinner prices are of course higher.) There's a decent wine list, or you can bring your own for a $2/person corkage fee.

I had chicken in pastry shells (vol au vent), served with a tasty mushroom cream sauce. The decor is great, airy and light with a large window facing the street. Food that is prepared and presented beautifully in a nice setting, affordable prices ... what more could you want?

Well, based on reports of friends and my own observations at the owner's neighboring bakery, I knew the food was good but the service potentially problematic. The owner is charming and friendly, but he can also be imperious, and staff turnover seems to be a chronic problem.

At lunch, my friend ordered coq au vin. When the owner brought our food, she was served a pasta primavera. When we pointed out the problem, he argued that she had indeed ordered the primavera, and showed us his written ticket as if to prove that he had not made a mistake. He only grudgingly offered to bring the right dish and did not apologize. She decided to keep the primavera, which was full of perfectly cooked spring vegetables. Although he came over 10 minutes later and half-heartedly told us he was sorry, there was no real effort to rectify the mistake (a complimentary glass of wine or dessert, or even no charge for the entree, might have been fair).

Our shared dessert, a chocolate mousse with chestnut filling, was excellent. Total bill, with two appetizers and my glass of wine, around $35. They even have pepper grinders on every table.

What to do about this kind of service? The food and ambience are so good, it's almost worth putting up with some indignity. But why should we have to? As in the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" story, should we be willing to set aside our expectations for simple courtesy and decent service when the food is really good?

I know I'll go back, but I'll do my very best to be sure they know what we're ordering next time.

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