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The Frenchette Team Breathes New Life Into Le Veau d’Or



The Frenchette Team Breathes New Life Into Le Veau d’Or
The Frenchette Team Breathes New Life Into Le Veau d’Or

Le Veau d’Or, an Upper East Side restaurant that dates from 1937 and has been closed for five years, reopens next Tuesday with a sensitive restoration by Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr. The two chefs have added seatbelts and polish to this vintage roadster of a restaurant, but the tiny bar (six seats, no food) still sits near the entrance, serving classic aperitifs and flutes of crémant.

Inlaid wood-paneled walls and beveled mirrors have been brightened, and much of the overload of framed paintings, drawings, photos and old newspaper clippings has been edited into storage — though some items remain on the walls. Brass sconces have been added, and shiny zigzag linoleum in red and black paves the floor.

The tables are covered in red-checked cloths, as they were in the beginning. Some of the old-timers who have been knocking on the door might question the choice of linen, since most photos of the restaurant from recent years show white or perhaps salmon-pink napery. But Mr. Nasr said early on, diners dug into the gigot on gingham, documented on a vintage post card. “It seemed that back in the day they wanted to be more informal than, say, Le Pavillon and those places,” he said. “And we also wanted to cue more casual.”

Satisfying food made with seasonal ingredients and French techniques drive the bistro specialties, drawn from the catalog of those that the restaurant has served over the years. Expect pâté en croûte, escargots, frogs legs persillade, hanger steak béarnaise with fries, chicken fricassee and gigot of lamb. Serious connoisseurs of Left Bank dining are likely to appreciate the tripes à la mode and tête de veau ravigote. In this setting there’s no place for tuna tartar, Caesar salad or a burger.

Mr. Hanson and Mr. Nasr, the two chef-proprietors, bring unquestionable French expertise to this venture, given their years at Balthazar, then Frenchette and Le Rock. Support in the kitchen comes from Charlie Izenstein, the chef de cuisine, who has worked with Mr. Hanson and Mr. Nasr for years. Overseeing the kitchen is the executive chef, Jeff Teller. Michelle Palazzo is the pastry chef. Jorge Riera covers wine and the bar manager is Sarah Morrissey.

The menu is prix fixe, $125, with choices of more than a dozen first courses, nine mains, a green salad for the table and desserts from Julia Child’s playbook like île flottante and a tarte Tatin for now made with summer peaches. It’s a long list, though Mr. Hanson said they’ve pared it down from the encyclopedic original.

A contemporary touch appears among the choice of cheeses that features American beauties in place of French. Breads come from the partners’ Frenchette Bakery. But France dominates the wine list. Brand new is a second floor private dining room in what had previously been offices.

Catherine Treboux, who owns the townhouse and the restaurant that her father, Robert Treboux, a veteran of New York’s historic French dining scene, bought in 1985, still lives in the building. Derek Summerlin, one of Robert Treboux’s grandchildren, bears the retro title of maître d’hôtel for the restaurant.

Le Veau d’Or, 129 East 60th Street, 212-838-3133.

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