Chez Vincent still serves classic French
Chez Vincent is one of the area’s happier success stories. Chef/owner Vincent Gagliano has worked in kitchens all his life, beginning as a teenager in France. After moving to the U.S., he worked in French restaurants, including the estimable Café de France on Park Avenue. He left there to open his own place in what at the time was a newly regentrified part of town – literally across the railroad tracks from trendy Park Avenue.
That was 12 years ago, and Chez Vincent continues along. The food is still above average and the experience is delightfully serene and unhurried.
L’assitte gourmande, a plate of five tidbits from the fruits de mer list, is a favorite. Best on the plate was the coquille St. Jacques in a deftly executed tarragon sauce. There was only a single scallop but it was a large one, dense but soft and with a sweet taste that was well complemented by the creamy herb sauce. The shrimp in dill sauce was a little too small and was rather shriveled. The rest of the fish – snapper, salmon – was only modest. Next time I’ll order a full course of the coquilles.
My guest made a good choice with the venison, a thin filet that was nevertheless cooked to the requested medium-rare and graced with a Montmorency sauce of sun-dried cherries in port wine.
Gagliano offers two types of escargot dishes: the more traditional with butter, garlic and parsley and one with the snails baked in tiny puff pastry. The snails were tender-firm and the pastry was chewy. The port wine sauce was a nice accompaniment.
Desserts are classic with a nice crème brulee and a tarte Tatin ($5.95). The brulee had a perfect burned sugar topping over a creamy custard. The tarte had firm apples coated with a sweet caramel created by the butter and sugar they were baked in.
Service is mature and professional. The surroundings are a bit rundown looking, but if you want modern, go next door to Hannibal’s, the stylishly modern lounge newly acquired by Gagliano. Luckily, he serves food there, too.