In a 2009 episode of No Reservations, Tony Bourdain considered a vanishing breed of New York restaurants: restaurants that were unchanged since the first day they opened their doors. He visited Jewish delicatessens and Italian pasta shops, but his stop at the anachronistic Le Veau d'Or is what delighted my Francophilia the most.
The minute he set foot in the tiny Upper East Side gem, I sensed I HAVE to eat there and soon, before the place becomes culinary history. Le Veau d'Or was established in 1937, and the cozy red banquettes, menu of frog legs and escargot, and eighty-five year old maître d' Robert continue ooze Parisian charm and timeless sophistication.
Though the latest and greatest restaurants do have their occasional thrill, for me, the untouched restaurants often offer the most enduring satisfaction. Restaurants with bow-tie clad waiters who have sampled every item on the menu over the past forty years, restaurants with old, faded Zagat placards in the window, restaurants with simple white table cloths and iceberg lettuce salads---those are often my favorites.
Forget the places with tuna mousse or harissa smoked ostrich or duck sous-vide with passion fruit marmalade. Fussy food, though showcasing the chef's talent and creativity, often lacks love and affection. The restaurants I remember best are those that allow me to taste the flavors that have been tasted for decades, made by chefs who know the recipes as well as they know their own grandchildren.
Is it too much to ask for a perfectly roasted chicken with a glass of Côte du Rhone these days? Apparently not at rarity that is Le Veau d'Or.
We are headed to the big city in a few weeks. I think I may need to stop off at Le Veau d'Or for a cheek kiss with Monsieur Robert and a whiff of the buttery garlic parfum of escargot.
Have any of you New Yorkers dined at Le Veau d'Or? Please share!
Image borrowed from Eater.