Café Luxembourg, a bijou of a bistro, has been called the blueprint for a faultless urban eatery. Nevertheless, it remains a charming one-off in a city of some 20,000 restaurants. With its Gallic mien—yellow walls, red banquettes, Jean Perzel fixtures, cream tiles, mirrored columns—and a menu combining French stalwarts and American favorites, goût délicieux is a given.
Reasonable prices, an affable, attentive staff, and Manhattan glamour have made Café Luxembourg a quiet Upper West Side magnet for sophisticated celebs (Al Pacino has been known to drop in), nostalgic Euros, suave politicos, and loyal locals, who come here not just for the vibe but particularly for the food. It’s just one of those places that galvanizes a certain, in-the-know New York crowd.
Dishes that might seem passé on paper arrive not reinvented but refreshed. Salmon chunks resting on hot-chili cucumbers bring zing to the fish. A wicked saffron aioli animates crunchy, cornmeal-crusted oysters. The duck cassoulet invokes Provence. And the Luxemburger, yes the Luxemburger, warrants light applause when it appears. An exquisite hangar steak and frites deserves a blue ribbon for its red wine sauce. Perhaps the true reward is return customers who order it like beef will soon be illegal. The country salad, oysters and steak tartare are snappy starters, and a humboldt fog cheese plate goes down well with Belgian beer.
This restaurant, which opened in 1983, hasn’t lost a soupçon of its savoir faire or saveur. The most radiant panel of the red and gold-cornered menu is the final one: the magnifique desserts. A cool ramekin of burnished crème brûlée affirms just why everybody loves the Lux. Prix-Fixe Three-course lunch, $30; three-course dinner, $44.
200 W. 70th St., New York, NY 10023 | 212-873-7411 | cafeluxembourg.com
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