This past Monday evening, my wife and I had the chance to eat of Le Veau d'Or for dinner. There was a post here about it recently and I mentioned I'd post a review. Here it is based on what I see as the basics:
-Food: The food is 100% French in nature, cooked the same today as it was for Grace Kelly and Truman Capote when they frequented the joint. That has its pluses and minuses. Clearly, we know more about food science today and can cook/season dishes better than what was known sixty years ago. If you are looking for something more modern, you are going to be disappointed. However, if you go with the expectation knowing the food will be more classic in nature, like what your grandma might have made, you’ll be able to see the base on which the dishes of today are built. My wife had the mussels for an appetizer and they were great. Perfectly cooked and every bit of the sauce was mopped up with the bread tray. It was a nice rendition of the classic. I had the vichyssoise and it was quite tasty. I’ve had better versions, but this one seemed like a base on which the others were built. For the entrée, I went with the Escalopines De Veau . Some would find the saucing of the dish underdone while others would argue it is veal and you should taste the veal, not the lemon cream. In any event, the meat was cooked and seasoned perfectly. My wife had the Coq Au Vin and she enjoyed it to the point where it was not possible for me to get a bite. I can tell you it looked and smelled fantastic and that I’ve been ordered to source hens in the Twin Cities to make this at home. If I had to rate the food on the star system, I’d likely give it one star or maybe two. It's classic, no-frills French.
The People: Here’s where I could see people getting intimidated. Everyone there speaks French and they do it throughout the meal, even if you don’t. I can totally see how some would find the off-putting as they aren’t catering it to you. I can also see how some people would find it charming, as if they were being transported from New York to a Paris Bistro. We went with the attitude that this was part of the show if you would and we totally enjoyed it. It even helped me knock some of the 20 year dust off my HS French. The owner, Robert, sat us at our table and was the perfect gentleman. He took my wife’s coat and helped her sit, even though he’s fifty years her senior. His daughter was our server and she was beyond friendly. She does speak English so when it comes to ordering, she’ll make sure you get what you want. There was another older gentleman who served our desserts and he took was the image of professional, formal service. Again, some people might find that formality stuffy or off-putting. I didn't, I found it respectful. Servers aren't supposed to be there to be your friend or third wheel conversant. Dishes were served from the left and cleared from the right according to the rules of decent society. There was definitely a formal air to the proceedings, but also one of respect. I’d give it three stars.
The Room: It feels like a club in the basement of a building. The tables are close to one another. So close in fact, that we could hear a wife at the table scolding her husband for a lack of charity this year. Sadly, he had only donated a million dollars to their chosen organization while their friends had been closer to ten. The horror, the horror. If I had to choose a word to describe it, I’d use intimate. The music is classic in nature, but not loud in the least so conversations are easy to have. We were definitely the youngest couple in the room by twenty years. It’s older people who probably remember the days when their parents took them to the place to experience the best New York had to offer.
The Verdict: The best way to describe it is a time capsule that brings you back to an older New York. The one that says women dress formally and men wear suits and ties out at dinner. If you go, you should dress the part (cuff links don’t hurt either). A place where you run into an old neighbor or co-worker and catch up on your lives. A restaurant that gives you a feel as to what four-star dining and service consisted of back when Don Draper owned Madison Avenue. It’s also a place that can transport you across an ocean to a classic Paris bistro. If you go looking for that type of experience, you are not going to be disappointed. That was our goal for the night and they totally met, if not exceeded it. But this is not a place for foodies. There are French restaurants that have evolved and are serving these dishes with the benefit of what we’ve learned over the last sixty years. To a foodie, this restaurant would be a disappointment, more like what they would expect from a home cook than a restaurant. Again, that’s not to say that the food is bad, it’s not. It just doesn’t have the frills that a foodie would be looking for in a restaurant experience. But frills and what’s hot in cooking today are not what Robert and Le Veau d'Or seem to be about. It’s about the classics and paying respect to that tradition. Those that go with that in mind will not be disappointed.
Le Veau d'Or
129 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022