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Favorite defunct New York City restaurants


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la fondue, 55th between 5th and 6th.

for cheese and chocolate fondues, shrill waitresses wearing alpine uniforms, the old school french dishes, croques madame et monsieur. for it being one of my first regular, "grown up" places for dinner. i believe it closed in 1996.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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Why Lutece Is Important To Me

I started eating in Lutece in the 80s, when I started being a lawyer and started having some discretionary income.

The big thing then was the New American Cookery. Taking off of French Nouvelle Cuisine, it centered on unexpected combinations of ingredients (one of them often being a fruit). Original plating also became important. Dishes had to be intellectually stimulating and surprising, and unlike anything you'd seen before.

So the first time I ate at Lutece, I couldn't see what the big deal was. There wasn't a single dish on the menu that was "different" from what I'd seen before. The food provided nothing to think about at all.

I had to go a few times before I got it. This wasn't food to "think"'; this was food to eat. The ingredients were great. The preparation was faultless. Just about everything was the very best version of what it was that you could imagine. The roast chicken, for example, could send you into paroxysms of joy. And it was just roast chicken. Nothing tricked-up about it at all.

I think this is notable because we're in another period now where everyone expects cuisine to be "interesting". But now, there's really nowhere like Lutece to counterbalance it. There are lower-level places that are simple -- Landmarc, the Blue Ribbons, even Blaue Gans. But (unless you count Brasserie LCB, which is somehow different) there isn't an ultra-haute place serving impeccably prepared traditional food. (Del Posto also is different -- not the least because of that "impeccably prepared".) (Maybe Daniel is closest. But it's different, too.)

Lutece taught me a lot about different ways of appreciating cuisine. It was immeasurably important to what I laughingly refered to as my culinary development. And once I learned to appreciate it, I loved going there more than I can say.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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You know, I think there may even have been TWO exclamation points. Thanks for the memory jog. I loved those big old margaritas. In fact, for some reason, they're all I remember...

There were FOUR Carambas! with 1 to 4 exclamation points, I guess depending on which opened first. One was upper west on Broadway, one was upper east on Mad, one was lower Broadway near Tower as posted and the fourth was on Eighth around 54th or 55th.

The food was pure sludge, but we went when we were underage and they didn't card us. And those margaritas were the best. ah the 80's.

ETA: haha, I'm laughing because I'm rereading this thread and I see I wrote essentially the same thing on page three, last year! guess I've been missing the 80's for awhile.

Edited by lia (log)
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Why Lutece Is Important To Me

I started eating in Lutece in the 80s, when I started being a lawyer and started having some discretionary income.

The big thing then was the New American Cookery.  Taking off of French Nouvelle Cuisine, it centered on unexpected combinations of ingredients (one of them often being a fruit).  Original plating also became important.  Dishes had to be intellectually stimulating and surprising, and unlike anything you'd seen before.

So the first time I ate at Lutece, I couldn't see what the big deal was.  There wasn't a single dish on the menu that was "different" from what I'd seen before.  The food provided nothing to think about at all.

I had to go a few times before I got it.  This wasn't food to "think"'; this was food to eat.  The ingredients were great.  The preparation was faultless.  Just about everything was the very best version of what it was that you could imagine.  The roast chicken, for example, could send you into paroxysms of joy.  And it was just roast chicken.  Nothing tricked-up about it at all.

I think this is notable because we're in another period now where everyone expects cuisine to be "interesting".  But now, there's really nowhere like Lutece to counterbalance it.  There are lower-level places that are simple -- Landmarc, the Blue Ribbons, even Blaue Gans.  But (unless you count Brasserie LCB, which is somehow different) there isn't an ultra-haute place serving impeccably prepared traditional food.  (Del Posto also is different -- not the least because of that "impeccably prepared".)  (Maybe Daniel is closest.  But it's different, too.)

Lutece taught me a lot about different ways of appreciating cuisine.  It was immeasurably important to what I laughingly refered to as my culinary development.  And once I learned to appreciate it, I loved going there more than I can say.

Lutece was my first fancy restaurant. It both ruined me and created me.

It is also the first place I ever got drunk.

Or flirted with a chef (tarty little 7 year old).

Ate a souffle, langoustine or wellington.

Had my food wrapped like a swan when I left.

I miss it too, very much. I am very happy to say I have thanked chef Saultner many times in my adulthood.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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1. Cello, Beautiful space, fabulous food

2. Luchows, for the obvious reasons

3. Parioli Romanissimo, not the one in the eighties, the original tiny one on ?Second Avenue, without attitude or obscene prices. Does anyone remember that one?

4. The OLD Lutece.

5. Yorkville.

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Why Lutece Is Important To Me

I started eating in Lutece in the 80s, when I started being a lawyer and started having some discretionary income.

The big thing then was the New American Cookery.  Taking off of French Nouvelle Cuisine, it centered on unexpected combinations of ingredients (one of them often being a fruit).  Original plating also became important.  Dishes had to be intellectually stimulating and surprising, and unlike anything you'd seen before.

So the first time I ate at Lutece, I couldn't see what the big deal was.  There wasn't a single dish on the menu that was "different" from what I'd seen before.  The food provided nothing to think about at all.

I had to go a few times before I got it.  This wasn't food to "think"'; this was food to eat.  The ingredients were great.  The preparation was faultless.  Just about everything was the very best version of what it was that you could imagine.  The roast chicken, for example, could send you into paroxysms of joy.  And it was just roast chicken.  Nothing tricked-up about it at all.

I think this is notable because we're in another period now where everyone expects cuisine to be "interesting".  But now, there's really nowhere like Lutece to counterbalance it.  There are lower-level places that are simple -- Landmarc, the Blue Ribbons, even Blaue Gans.  But (unless you count Brasserie LCB, which is somehow different) there isn't an ultra-haute place serving impeccably prepared traditional food.  (Del Posto also is different -- not the least because of that "impeccably prepared".)  (Maybe Daniel is closest.  But it's different, too.)

Lutece taught me a lot about different ways of appreciating cuisine.  It was immeasurably important to what I laughingly refered to as my culinary development.  And once I learned to appreciate it, I loved going there more than I can say.

Sneakeater, very well put. I miss Lutece for the same reasons. I would suggest as an alternative that Cafe Boulud has a focus on "food to eat". While they do have dishes intended to be "interesting" in a more modern way, the ultimate goal usually seems to emphasize flavor and preparation over flash. Also, there are usually some specials (often based on what came from the market that day) that are pure unadorned classics. I remember doing a fairly elaborate tasting meal there one day which culminated with a simple aged tenderloin with roast potatoes, or another day with a poached guinea hen. Flawlessly executed with the finest ingredients, these types of things can indeed be special.

Although not nearly at the same culinary level, I've found that some of the classic dishes at L'Absinthe can also make my day.

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I doubt anybody could possibly remember this restaurant as I can't even recall its exact location other then it being in the village somewhere.

Its name was Omnibus. Very small and dark and was around in the late 70's.

Some of my fondest memories as a teenager was working with my mother in Hoboken NJ and on the rare occurrence we finished early we would shoot through the tunnel to this little gem.

I even remember some menu items like roasted cornish hens with cherry sauce.

I'm willing to bet there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of that small restaurant or when I convinced my mother once that all would be fine if we stopped in Times Square on the way back. I doubt she ever let me live that one down. :laugh:

Robert R

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Of course you're right, but IMO Cafe Boulud doesn't approach the level of Lutece.

Really? That surprises me. Are you speaking of the days when Soltner was there, later, or both? Also, do you mean food, service, in what ways specifically?

I was still a regular diner at Lutece just prior to its demise, at which point I wouldn't have ranked it in the same league as Cafe Boulud. Then again, Cafe Boulud can be quirky. They can hit culinary home runs out of the ballpark, but to see that you may have to let them know that's what you're looking for.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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  • 15 years later...

I'm not sure if it's appropriate to post this here, given the thread hasn't seen replies in more than a decade. However...

 

I see that someone mentioned El Rincón Argentino. It so happens that my grandfather and a partner opened that place in 1960 or 1961, and I have some pictures and oral history about the place. Please let me know if you believe this should be in a different thread.

 

My grandfather, Osvaldo Genaro Barreiro, teamed up with another guy whose last name was Fal. For some reason, even though my grandfather was of Galician ancestry, he always got along well with Italians and Sirians, like Fal.

 

They found a good location for the restaurant, except they wanted a grill at the entrance, and the front was too narrow to allow for a regulations-complying door and a grill. That's why they had to devise a rotating grill that allowed the cook to work from the same spot.

 

One obstacle they found when they moved in was that beef cuts are completely different in Argentina, so they had to have a diagram sent to the butcher in New York so he would know what to do. Then, when they had just opened, they learned that it was customary to use a meat tenderizer in the US, but they didn't know how to use it, so when they opened for the first time in the morning they put the meat in the tenderizer. At noon, they went to fetch a few cuts for the grill and found the meat had dissolved completely. Apparently they should have put the meat in the tenderizer just 15 minutes before cooking. Who knew!

 

They lived in Astoria, in a small appartment. Apparently, even though my grandmother did not speak much English (my grandparents took a crash course before they traveled), she was obsessively, cripplingly thrifty, so she asked around and found out that most American landlords actually charged her less than Latin American ones.

 

Just before Christmas 1961, a fire broke out in the restaurant. Once it was put down, my grandfather entered the premises behind the firemen and was mortified that the firemen used a pickaxe to tear down the drop ceiling in front of them. He understood that they did that as a precaution, but it hurt his finances nevertheless.

 

Another incident happened in the dead of winter, when they hired a window cleaner. You have to keep in mind that it never snows in Buenos Aires, even though it's a temperate climate (it snowed once in 1918 and again in 2007). My grandfather noticed that the window cleaner used a squeegee (that of itself was a novelty for an Argentine), but he did very small parts of the window at once. He soaped up a small part and immediately wiped it dry. My father thought the window cleaner was working slowly on purpose to charge more, so he grabbed a bucket full of soapy water and threw it at the window, at which point it immediately froze over. That's when my grandfather realized why the window cleaner worked the way he did.

 

After a year, even though the restaurant was doing well, my grandparents got tired of the physical labor and the cold winter, so they packed up and left for Buenos Aires. It was fun for a while, but they were both professionals (he was an accountant and she was a schoolteacher). His partner kept the place open until 1993, if I recall correctly.

 

Although I never ate there (I visited New York first in 2012), I don't think you could get this information from anyone else, so it might be interesting.

 

The pictures are:

1, 2) Two views of the restaurant in what appears to be the late seventies and early eighties. My grandmother traveled to New York, apparently.

3) Top, center: my father (5 years old) and my grandmother in their appartment. Bottom: Miami.

4) Top: two views of the restaurant. Bottom left: fire. Bottom right: Christmas, my father and Broadway.

5) Clockwise from top left: the train station in Astoria (30th Street on the N line), Herald Square, same, a car dealership, Rockefeller Center and the station again. Keep in mind that snow was extra alluring for them because they were not used to it at all.

6) The restaurant's business card. The company was named Fal-Bar after Fal and Barreiro.

 

 

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