There’s no shortage of worthwhile French bistros and brasseries in Manhattan, but fancy, old school French fare is a whole other story. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find a classic quenelle in Paris nowadays, nevermind in Manhattan. So I beg you not to take midtown’s Le Grenouille for granted. Where else in the city can you find a proper Grand Marnier soufflé after all? And that’s exactly the point.
While greats like Daniel and Jean-Georges embrace modern French cookery, Le Grenouille refuses to let haute French fade away. Their menu is a timeless, and more importantly, delicious homage to Frog legs Fricassee, Lobster Bisque, and Crêpes Flambées in all their historied glory. Especially a savory and pillowy Mushroom and Truffle Soufflé that collapses with the touch of your spoon. There’s a fine Duck Foie Gras Terrine with rhubarb chutney for smearing on brioche and a decadent bowl of Lobster and Tarragon Ravioli bathing in a beurre blanc sauce. Little Neck Clams get the same, wonderfully herbaceous and garlicky treatment as Escargots do here. One of my favorite dishes is the Pike Quenelles, luscious orbs of fish mousse, dabbed with caviar, and anointed with a champagne sauce; one of those died and gone to heaven dishes you yearn for weeks later. That, and the Roast Tournedos of Duck with hyper golden and crispy, Pommes Soufflés. For dessert, it’s your obligation to try one of their exemplary Soufflés, especially the version spiked with Grand Marnier! And do indulge in their spectacular wine list with a focus on French wines, of course.
If that’s not enough, Le Grenouille is a looker, too. The restaurant itself is tucked inside a townhouse that’s sprawled over three floors with towering flower arrangements filled with cherry blossoms, white tablecloths, red velvet banquettes and mirrors along the walls. And while Le Grenouille is in no way cheap, it’s a worthy splurge; a special occasion kind of spot with haute French that’s hard to find anywhere else these days.