KLa Goulue has been called a “neighborhood gem” numerous times on Yelp and that is an understatement in my eyes. They serve up classic French cuisine with care and flair–and there are a few American classics like locally sourced fish thrown in for good measure. Overall, they have the most solid “Gaelic grub” on the Upper East Side. Portions are generous and freshness is the biggest priority.As we go to press, La Goulue has gotten in their enormous white asparagus. This is a seasonal veggie that I have only encountered in German restaurants in the past as it is considered a traditional food there and there are even festivals based around this amazing flavorful white spears! La Goulue executive chef Antoine Camin prepares it simply by sauteeing with pesto and piperade, which seems to be a lovely mixture of microgreens and chopped yellow and red tomatoes. He drizzles the asparagus with EVOO and balsamic at the end of preparation. This is remarkably flavorful and healthy. Did I fail to mention how well presented this dish is? But then again every dish at La Goulue looks like a work of art.Duck lovers come into La Goulue to seek out their beautiful duck breast over spaetzle. This is definitely in the top five most commonly ordered dishes and they get it to the exact temperature that you want it. Duck lovers will also like that La Goulue also has a legendary Duck Terrine Country Style with porcini, duck liver and toast.
The sides are simple but special. The mixed mushrooms aka Mushrooms Persillade include sauteed shitake and oyster mushrooms sprinkled with a few different fresh herbs including parsley and sage. You will also love their garlic tinged sautéed spinach which is served in a little cast iron bowl to keep it hot–the spinach tastes like it was picked within the past hour.
The beef tenderloin served au poivre is remarkably tender; no steak knife is needed. You have a choice of regular or truffle fries to go with your meat. The tenderloin is a large portion; I would say that it tops eight ounces. The steak in French restaurants just always tastes special to me–their meat always seems even more tender than steakhouses and I wonder if there is a secret to that. Perhaps it is tenderized with a mallet before it hits the grill. (You also have the option of ordering your tenderloin two ways on one plate–with peppercorn sauce and with foie gras and truffle sauce.) Whatever the trick is to making the tenderloin great, I don’t really care. This is simply some of the most tender and juicy steak that you will find anywhere in town!
You cannot pass on any French eaterie that has remarkably authentic desserts. La Goulue’s Ile Flottante features a homemade meringue and vanilla custard topped with fresh apricots, Vermont Creme Fraiche and apricot sauce. The sweet meringue against the not-so-sweet fresh apricot is a truly beautiful pairing and its such a pretty dessert that you will feel guilty sticking your fork in it.
The Apple Tartin Servie Chause is another work of art–the soft warm apple apple slices not overly sweet, the crust underneath is just the right firmness and the sauce created from baked apple drippings and caramel is poured on top. Did I forget to mention the divine Vermont creme fraiche? If you like apple desserts, you have not lived until you have tried this amazing tart. It is easily large enough for two to share.The wait staff is super knowledgeable on each dish and are super attentive to individual dietary needs. They are quick to make recommendations if you tell them what your general food preferences are, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian. You might think of French cuisine as being meat-based but there are numerous great options including the aforementioned asparagus, at least a half dozen types of fish and couscous based dishes that bring in a Moroccan flavor. You will adore the way you are made to feel like family when you get a hearty greeting at the door–and friendly goodbyes from at least three staff members on the way out. La Goulue has been in business for 46 years and have clientele that have been coming since it’s inception. It is presently at 29 East 61st but for the majority of its tenure it was right on Madison a few streets away. Coming to La Goulue feels like a warm hug from a French aunt–it’s got a classic bistro feeling with brown leather banquettes, wood framed large mirrors and brown wood paneling. There are the de rigeur brass railings around the back of the booth that every true French bistro must have. La Goulue iswarm and cozy and perfect to visit after shopping at Barney’s nearby. I only have nice things to say about La Goulue. It just does not disappoint in any regard–food, ambiance, portion size or staff. They’ve got a winning formula for sure! Reservations are recommended but not mandatory. To make a reservation and to peruse the remarkable menu, go to www.lagouluerestaurant.com. Dress is both business and business casual and families are welcome.