Wednesday, June 20, 2012

French Food Gives Me the Warm & Fuzzies

Since I've moved to the South Shore of Long Island, I've been discovering hidden pockets of gastronomic excellence in unpretentious,  truly diamond-in-the-rough venues. There are, of course, the more well-known "local" spots -- the open secrets that everyone wants to think no one knows about. Then there are the community-based restaurants, who are sustained by über-locals and passion.

Le Soir is one of them.

Cozy, with tiny tables, crooked rafters, and a sign that attracts no attention, this little French restaurant on the side of Main Street never fails to exceed my expectations. Hearty, full-flavored French fare with country favorites, this restaurant is a go-to in the dead of winter, when you need fearless food that will warm you for hours. Seriously -- their food makes you feel good about life. 

One of my favorite restaurants on the island, Le Soir's friendly service and authentic provincial French menu makes every visit a special occasion. And the fact that the servers are the same loyal, nice people give it even more of an "our place" feel. Plus, it's really not too expensive for the quality and service you get.

Meals here start with this fabulous crusty French bread. Accompanied by a cold pat of butter, it's simply addicting. Many a time, I find myself stuffed after the included soup and overwhelmed post-salad because I overindulge on the bread. I can't help it! It's lush, sweet, crunchy, and it's no Leidenheimer's (mm, I do miss New Orleans French bread, with the crackly thin crust ...), but man is it irresistible. 

Their appetizers are fabulous. They know how to properly execute a good escargot plate (and where else can you even FIND escargot on Long Island??), and the foie gras is prepared well, too. The lump crab cakes are best when they offer them with the fried leeks, and Boy goes nuts over the sweetbreads (again, where else on LI do you see THAT on the menu?!). Paté also makes a regular appearance, and if you're lucky, you'll also find housemade ravioli, seared scallops, and pasta on the specials menu.

Although the entrees are on the higher end, averaging $29-38, it's still not a bad deal. Every entree comes with the soup of the day, which can range from a cold gazpacho to a creamy leek and watercress soup, and their house salad of mixed buttery lettuces and a mustard-based dressing. The dressing is absolutely to die for -- light and tangy and creamy all at once, on sweet greens -- and although you don't get a choice with the soup, at least it's always fresh since it's impromptu, chef's inspiration.

The entrees are generously portioned, and pasta is made on the premises. Huge bonus, every time. Eggy and light, there's rarely a greater treat than fresh pasta. The steaks are a little tough, but this is not a steakhouse, so who cares? The jumbo shrimp risotto is fabulous, with perfectly executed risotto and truly jumbo shrimp. The whole lobster is served shelled and reassembled, and on a bed of delightful diced summer vegetables in a light whiskey-accented broth. The duck l'orange is a little overdone at times, but the flavor is superb and the portion is out of control. Their veal escalopes are always outstanding, with a mushroom-rich sauce that has you licking the plate.

All desserts are also housemade (included in your meal Monday through Thursday, making it a 4-course prix fixe!), and you can definitely taste the quality. Seasonality is big here, represented by the lighter French fruit pastries on offer, like mixed berry tarts and comforting classics like an apple pear crumble. They also have a luxuriously airy meringue dessert, with a perfectly crunchy shell and filled with fluffy lemon curd ; a lush, dense, and creamy cheesecake; a beautifully big pat of créme caramel; and chocolate mousse desserts on offer as well. Nothing is too heavy; nothing weighs you down, which is surprising since I'm sure there's plenty of butter and heavy cream. However, what you DON'T taste is artificiality. This old-fashioned restaurant seems to believe in the sanctity of clean flavors accented by loads of butter.

The first time Boy took me there, he'd dismissed the more well-known French restaurants like Lessings-owned Mirabelle and others out east to find this treasure practically in our backyard. This place is one of our favorite secrets, but reservations are recommended since the secret's starting to get out. 


  1. I like french food very much and i have tried many french recipes which i got from youtube and many other website. This blog is really interesting and can you publish some french recipe here such as pasta which is shown above.I am waiting for it.

    1. Thank you! However, this is not my recipe, since it's from a restaurant :/