I always book French restaurants when my mother is in town. Last weekend, we looked in on Le Périgord, one of the city’s few remaining grandes dames of classic French cuisine. My last visit was over a Memorial Day weekend, when I found it a bit deserted and dowdy, though still worthy and essential.
This time, on a more typical Friday night, we found business a bit more brisk—though it was not full. And the décor doesn’t seem quite as dowdy as it did last time. Actually, it doesn’t seem that way at all, though they’re long overdue to fix a tiny hole in the ceiling, which as I recall was there last time too.
At a restaurant this old, strengths and weaknesses aren’t likely to change rapidly. The bread service remains unimpressive, and it comes with cold, hard butter—just like last time. The menu is a $65 prix fixe—just like last time. The menu doesn’t change much, nor does it need to, but there are seasonal specials.
My girlfriend ordered the cold hors d’oeuvres (above left), which for most people would be a meal in itself. I loved the vegetable tart (above right) in a tangy butter sauce. My mom had the oysters (below left).
My mom and my girlfriend both chose the roasted duck. The kitchen will serve a portion for one, but when it’s ordered for two, they present the whole bird and carve it tableside (above right & below left).
I had the elk (above right), an off-menu special, which was excellent. It had a wonderful gamey flavor, though the accompanying rib was a bit tough.
The desserts we chose were fairly simple, but no less effective for that: a blueberry cream tart or the same in raspberry, both with a large dollop of fresh cream.
Most critics in town don’t give credit for classics done well, as if it requires no particular talent to execute the same recipes for decades. Yet, over and over again we see new restaurants serving the old favorites, and falling flat on their faces. Just because it’s classic doesn’t make it easy. Le Périgord continues to get it right, and for that it gets three stars.
Now, if only they’d do something about that cold butter.
Le Périgord (405 E. 52nd Street, east of First Avenue, Turtle Bay)