Le Boeuf à la Mode is one of the last remaining classic French bistros, in a city that was once full of “Le” and “La” restaurants. It’s run by the same French family that founded it in 1962, and one suspects the menu hasn’t changed much in all that time. Thanks to a renovation in the 1990s, it doesn’t have the same time-warp feeling as Le Veau d’Or, and it is also a bit larger.
However, one is still acutely aware of a bygone era. My friend and I are in our 40s, and we were surely the youngest people there. The restaurant, which seats 90, was less than half full. In the most recent New York Times review—perhaps the only one—John Canaday awarded two stars in 1975.
We ordered the four course prix fixe at $38.50. A duck mousse terrine was uncomplicated, but offered all the simple pleasure such a dish should. I am fairly certain the soup was the same cream of leek that John Canaday raved about, though to my taste it was merely average. Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and goat cheese (a recited special) was excellent. I seldom order chicken in a restaurant, but the promise of goat cheese was enough to tempt me, and I wasn’t disappointed. For dessert, a blueberry tart was rather forgettable.
Le Boeuf à la Mode’s perch on 81st Street is too far out-of-the-way for me to consider becoming a regular. Besides, I liked Le Veau d’Or’s ancient charm slightly better, and it is closer. But if you are hungry for the old-fashioned French classics, Le Boeuf is certainly worth a look.
Le Boeuf à la Mode (539 East 81st Street between First and York Avenues, Upper East Side)