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Le Fandy, Fair Haven

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We had another delicious meal once again at Le Fandy. Chef Ong is amazing! I had the butternut squash soup to start followed by a halibut steak with saute'ed onions and portobello mushrooms. My husband had the lobster crepes (which I ALWAYS order because they are so delightful!) and he had the seared striplion with mashed and brussel sprouts.

Since I have first been here over the summer, I cannot tell you how many times I have dined here now! The food is wonderful, but I cnnot figure out why there is not a line out the door? The food is on such a high caliber, and the service is always a pleasure. Perhaps he is not in the right spot? I don't know, but I simply adore the place! I don't mind drivng 40 - 45 minutes either to get here.

I am looking forward to my next visit to Le Fandy!

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  1. I agree, Chef Ong is terrific. As to why no line out the door... as a fellow chef, I've come to understand that the chefs that just simply turn out exceptional food, without fanfare, without PR people, without calling publications to beg for interviews, often are overlooked. But I and, I suspect, Chef Ong would have it no other way.

    While it's always nice to get a good review in a major area publication, the food should be able to speak for it's self. The fact that Le Fandy is still in business and doing well after several years and a change of ownership, is testament to the fine food and service you will find when you walk through their door. In an industry that has the highest failure rate in the world, that says more than any review can.

    1. I love this place.

      We should have a chowhound meal there one day. But somebody else has to organize it. I am sticking to eating and, occasionally, complaining.

      I just wish they would have daily specials or something to throw in a bit of variety.

      1 Reply
      1. re: seal

        Hi Seal! The other night they did have one special, Grouper, I believe, but I don't like grouper. The butternut squash soup was also a special.

        Thanks for your post also foodreview. I agree with you as well!

      2. lol.

        This thread made me make reservations for dinner for
        the wife and I next Saturday night. Any local hounds
        who want to can make early (6:30) reservations and we
        can say hello. Just look for the bald guy sitting with
        the woman who is waaay too good looking for him.

        By the way, anyone friendly with the owner? I would love
        to get them to do a truffle tasting there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: seal

          I would LOVE to go, since afterall I love the place. We will be at a cocktail party in Manhattan on Sat. night. Please definatley post what you ate. My mouth is already watering!

        2. We finally made it to Le Fandy this evening. Wow! Wow! Wow!

          We arrived at 8:15 and were surprised to find the place nearly empty. There was only one table occupied, and that couple left soon after we were seated, so we had the place to ourselves.

          Actually, we had been there once before during the previous ownership. The food then was quite good, and we liked the country French-style ambiance. While the decor remains the same, the cuisine of Chef/owner Ong is, in my view, many notches higher. In a word: superb!!

          We were offered a choice of 4 different kinds of rolls. I chose sour dough while my husband took the last of the onion rolls. Both were delicious. Butter was at the proper temperature for ease of spreading.

          While the menu is not huge, it is well-balanced and very interesting. My husband started with the soup du jour, a refined seafood chowder. He was pleased but I have to admit that when I tasted it, I found it just a bit too "seafood-y." My appetizer was a melange of diced vegetable topped with a very generous disk of goat cheese, heated through, and upon which Chef Ong artfully arranged some properly-dressed mesclun. This dish reminded me of the classic "petatou" though that is made with potatoes. Chef Ong's creation is a delicious mix of flavors and textures.

          For the main course, we both chose the wild salmon en croute. But this was no ordinary rendition of that dish. Chef Ong wraps the salmon in rice paper and fries it so that the wrap is super crisp, yet totally greaseless, while the salmon is cooked through and still manages to remain moist. The salmon rested on a bed of white flagelots cooked in a flavor-filled tomato broth. As we ate, we kept "ooh"-ing and "ah"-ing, totally bowled over by how absolutely sensational this dish was.

          We did not order dessert.

          Our server, Eileen, was friendly and attentive. The meal, including tax & tip, cost $100.

          I have my eye on the foie gras and the duck breast. Needless to say, we'll be going back to Le Fandy *very* soon!

          1 Reply
          1. re: RGR

            Ooh, R! Thank you for your post. That just got bumped up to the top of the list. I like the idea of using rice paper in this kind of application, nice.

          2. RGR - Your meal sounds great. My wife and I tried to go two weeks ago but they were booked. This weekend we are trying Copper Canyon, but after that we will definitely try Le Fandy.

            1. We are finally getting a chance to try Le Fandy on Saturday night. i will report back.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bgut1

                You better report back!!! This is one of our favorites places!!!!

                ummmmm....I can taste it now! Enjoy your meals!

              2. We made our second visit to Le Fandy this past Wednesday.

                My husband had the mushroom soup and the lamb tagine, both of which met with his approval. I tasted each and thought they were fine.

                I started with the escargots "pithivier," which were braised in bacon, mushrooms, chopped walnuts, and garlic butter, and served in a split puff pastry. Although the escargots were a tad mushy, they had excellent flavor. I'm a sucker for anything with puff pastry, so no complaints there. As I mentioned in my previous write-up, I had my eye on the main course duck breast (aka "magret"). It was cooked exactly as magret should be, i.e., medium rare, and the orange gastrique sauce was a wonderful enhancement. However, I prefer thinner slices, and the skin wasn’t crispy. The slices were fanned across the top of a creamy polenta cake. Seriously delicious!! There was also a portion of properly sauteed Swiss chard with lardons. Portions on this plate were substantial, particularly the polenta cake, which was huge.

                We again skipped dessert.

                This was a very good meal but, to be honest, not as outstanding as our first.

                Before we left, we chatted briefly with Chef Ong, who told us he will be making some menu changed in the next few weeks. When I asked for some hints, he indicated he may be changing the salmon dish. So, if you’re thinking of checking out the rice paper preparation that had us both swooning, I suggest you get there asap.

                9 Replies
                1. re: RGR

                  Just a few words to you RGR, its a pleasure to read your reviews. I enjoy first hand commentary on restaurants I may try out of area..but nothing beats a recent review on a place in "the neighborhood."

                  Just terrific.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    Thanks for the kind words, HillJ. :-) Actually, I think we're exceedingly fortunate to have a stellar group of Hound regulars in this area of NJ who provide excellent up-to-date commentary on what's happening with restaurants in "the neighborhood."

                    1. re: RGR

                      so true!

                  2. re: RGR

                    Hello RGR,
                    On Wednesday at Le Fandy, do you remember a couple sitting one table away? The woman was craning her neck to look at the dishes being served at your table... That was me! That lamb tangine looked really good. And so nice that it was served in the conical cooking vessel.

                    It was our first visit to LF and we were very pleased. I had the red snapper with risotto and dashi. Delicious. Husband really liked his venison. It was his birthday, so we splurged on the cheese platter and three desserts!

                    Thanks to all the Chowhounds who have posted comments on LeFandy.

                    Bgut1, sorry to hear your experience was not so good. I, too, was annoyed that sweetbreads were not available. The waiter told us they stopped offering it due to lack of interest. If that's the case, I'd like to see it removed from the menu or at least crossed off.
                    The prices are high, but I thought it was a good value for the high quality food and charming, intimate, ambience. The waiter was very nice and professional, but I think she had too many tables that evening.

                    1. re: val ann c

                      Hey, Val! Of course, I remember you. :-) What a coincidence that two Hounds were sitting right near each other and didn't have a clue. lol

                      Although I heard you and Eileen talking about a dish that wasn't being offered, I didn't know exactly which it was until you just mentioned it. As it happens, the woman at the table behind yours also asked about the sweetbreads (again, I missed the part of which dish), and Eileen told her that if she gave Chef Ong 24-hours notice, he would be happy to get them for her. My husband loves sweetbreads, so I'm going to keep that in mind. However, I agree with you that if they're not being offered regularly, they should be removed from the menu. Maybe he could put a note at the bottom about 24-hour notice for anyone who wants them.

                      Serving the lamb tagine *in* a tagine was a very nice touch. I asked Eileen if they were actually cooked in that vessel -- some tagines cannot be used for cooking, only as decorative serving pieces -- and she said the lamb was cooked for several hours in another pot, then finished in the tagine. My one quibble was that I felt the dish, which came only with risotto, should have included some additional vegetables. But my husband was quite happy with it as it was.

                      I noticed that there was some glitch with your order. We came in after you, so it seemed strange to me that our main courses were served well before yours. And when yours finally came out, I heard Eileen apologize. What exactly happened?

                      Also, there were only 4 occupied tables. (Another table became occupied just as we were leaving.) I hardly think that's too many tables for one waitress to handle.

                      1. re: RGR

                        RGR, RE the order glitch. Eileen only told us that she had made a mistake with our order. That's why it was late. It didn't bother me because we'd already had the amuse and appetizer -- so we were no longer ravenous.
                        I did like the snail appetizer. I agree with you - I would have liked more chew on the snails. The puff pastry was purrfect.
                        Glad to know the sweetbreads might be ordered ahead.

                        1. re: val ann c

                          I always get seated next to boring couples that hide their food when I try to get a peek. You two are soooo lucky.

                          1. re: seal

                            seal, Even at a place like Nicholas, where the tables are spread out and the main courses arrive covered with silver cloches, I make it my business to see what others are eating. O.k., so color me nosy. But that's part of the fun of dining out.

                      2. re: val ann c

                        Val ann c - Thanks for the response. My wife was debating ordering the red snapper instead of the Monkfish but the waiter advised otherwise. Based upon your review, she probably should have gone with her first choice. With regard to the sweetbreads, it was removed from my wife's menu and was crossed off mine with a black pen. As far as the service is concerned I'm sure Wednesday night is less hectic and probably as a result was a better experience. I plan on trying Le Fandy again during the week.

                    2. I so much wanted to be blown away by this place but to be completely honest, I wasn't. The evening didn't start off too well. While we arrived a few minutes late for our 8 PM reservation, we were not seated until 8:30 PM. Quite unacceptable in my book. While I understand that they are a small restaurant, one of their supposed caliber should have a host/hostess and not rely on a passing wait person. In our case we waited for at least 10 minutes before anyone even acknowledged our existence. After finally being seated we were presented with our menus. We were disappointed to learn that neither the sweetbreads nor the lobster crepe were being served, they were out of the striploin, and the signature halibut dish was being replaced with monkfish. At this point we were quite disapponted. We kept our chins up and decided to trug along with the assistance of our waiter. Based in part on his recommendations we ordered the following: the le fandy salad (to be shared), lobster/truffle risotto, foie gras, kristy's day boat scallops(entree portion), and the monkfish (the signature halibut preparation). Its now 45 minutes past our reservation time and we are finally presented with a choice of three breads: walnut raisin, brioche with and without onion. I tried the walnut raisin and my wife had the brioche. Both were very good however we were not presented with any butter or oil. I assume we were to receive butter as a butter knife was placed on our bread dish. Being hungry we decided to eat the bread dry. Next we were presented with an amuse of eggplant tempanade. Quite nice. I was not expecting an amuse so this was a nice surprise. Being hungry we appreciated the speed our course were delivered. Next came the salad. Another nice touch was the splitting of the salad onto two plates. The salad was solid. Properly dressed greens with a nice (if not to hot - burned my mouth on the first bite) goat cheese sandwich wrapped in brick dough (think phyllo). I would have preffered an app of just the goat cheese. Now at this point the wine was kicking in and we were starting to think the night was going to get better. This place had a chance to redeem itself. It didn't. Next came our second course. My wife was presented with the risotto and me the foie. The risotto was vey nice indeed. How can you go wrong with truffles and lobster? My foie on the other hand was subpar. The presentation was nice. A small piece of foie properly scored and seared with a fanning of pear underneath. The texture of the foie wasn't good. It was hard like overcooked liver. I've never had foie presented that way. Its usually soft and melts in your mouth. This was very confusing as I thought that if you over cooked foie it just melted and burned. I was very disappointed with this dish. One redeeming thing about the dish was the pear. We determined that it must have been dusted with cinnamon to give it a beautiful taste. Next came the entrees. I ordered the scallops while my wife had the monkfish. The scallops were exemplary. Perfectly cooked sitting atop a celery root puree and topped with a nicely dressed micro green and granny smith apple salad. A perfect example of the proper layering of flavors and textures. Notwithstanding the inconsistencies of the evening, this dish alone exhibited the capabilites of the kitchen. My wife's monkfish on the other hand wasn't that good. I question the chef's choice of monkfish as a replacement for halibut. The textures of the fish are quite different. Here the monkfish was too firm and hard (as it usually is). The halibut I'm sure would have been softer and flakier which would have worked. I did however enjoy the rosemary sauce and onions. It would have also worked very well with poultry. Having brought along a nice bonny doon ice wine, we decided to order dessert. My wife ordered the chocolate tart while I ordered a new dessert - the pumpkin spiced bread pudding (I was desuaded by my wait person as she thought it would be too much chocolate). The chocolate tart was not a tart at all but the standard molten lava cake with excellent chocolate ice cream atop crushed hazelnut and strawberry coulis. The cake was very chocolatey and delicious. My bread pudding was also very good although the portion was way too small. It was served in a small custard dish and consisted of maybe five small cubes of bread with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and carmel sauce. Again quite delicious but I would have appreciated at least another serving. All in all the meal wasn't that bad however considering the glowing reviews on this and other boards, I was quite disappointed. What made the meal harder to swallow was the final tab. The bill was $150 which I found to be quite high considering its a BYOB. I don't understand this type of pricing. This is the reason I no longer dine at Brandl (and I believe the food at Brandl is better). While I intend to give this place another try it will not be for some time. Sorry guys I really wanted to like this place.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: bgut1

                        Hey, bgut, Thanks for your report. I'm sorry you had a less than excellent experience at Le Fandy.

                        I didn't mention it in my reviews, but there is no person specifically in charge of reception. But what works o.k. during the week when it's not very busy -- come in, hang your coat on a hook near the door, and wait just a moment for Eileen, the sole waitress, to seat you -- obviously, does not work well at all on a busy Saturday night. Also, there isn't a really comfortable place to wait if wait you must. Thus, Le Fandy is operating like a very casual bistro rather than a more formal restaurant.

                        I was surprised to read about the lack of butter since each time we've been there, a dish of butter was already on the table when we sat down. Like you, I found the rolls to be very tasty but, as with so many things, they're even better with butter. (None of that oil business for me, thank you!)

                        Re: the cuisine. I agree that it's a real bummer when what's on the menu is not available, particularly if it's something that especially appeals to you. Or, conversely, if something unappealing is substituted.

                        I'm a foie gras maniac, so your description has me scratching my head. Overcooked foie gras disintegrates into a puddle of fat, and undercooked foie gras would be cold and mushy. That's why properly cooking foie gras takes great skill. So, I'm questioning whether what you were served was actually foie gras. Sounds more like a piece of regular liver, which does get tough when overcooked.

                        Since the halibut is listed on the menu as a "signature dish," we asked Chef Ong why the monkfish substitution. He said he was not pleased with the current quality of the halibut. That did surprise me since I've recently bought some excellent halibut at Wegmans. In any event, I'm not a big monkfish fan, so I'm going to wait to try this dish when the halibut is available.

                        Re: Cost. Le Fandy's prices are not out of line with other byo's, such as Le Rendez-vous and Lorena's. What it then comes down to is whether one feels the quality of Chef Ong's cuisine is worthy of that cost. Obviously, you felt it didn't.

                        1. re: RGR

                          RGR- I'm still scratching my head on the foie gras thing. It definitely was not regular liver. I've had foie gras countless times and this was the first time I ever had it this consistency. With regard to the "very casual bistro" atmosphere and service, I don't buy it. How can they charge the prices they do, serve that type of food and then cop out with the service saying they are casual. As I noted above this is very similar to my experiences at Brandl. One restaurant that I have recently had occasion to try which does strike a perfect balance is Dish.

                          1. re: bgut1

                            I have not been to Brandl, but I have been to Dish and, frankly, with regard to the food, I don't think it's a proper comparison to Le Fandy. The comfort-style New American cuisine at Dish is not in the same category as Chef Ong's cuisine, which is French-inspired and creative. That's why much better comparisons are places like Lorena's and Le Rendez-vous. If you look at prices on their menus, you will see that they are all similar.

                            As for various aspects of dining at these places...

                            Dish has a reception desk, as does Lorena's. (Lorena, herself, seats diners.) But Le Rendez-vous has no reception desk, and it's usually, but not always, the owner (who is no longer doing the cooking) who seats people. Lorena's has a very small entry area, but it's not a particularly comfortable place to wait for a table, especially when other diners are exiting. Both Dish and Le Rendez-vous suffer considerable from having absolutely *no* waiting area whatsoever. And, unlike the other restaurants I'm discussing here, Dish does not take reservations on Friday and Saturday, which means there's a good chance you will have a wait for your table.

                            At Dish, I found the seating to be quite uncomfortable. The have jammed as many tables as possible into a relatively small space. So much so that our table was so close to the one next to ours that we were practically in our neighbors' laps. Tables at Le Rendez-vous and Lorena's are also quite close, but they are arranged so that seating is more comfortable.

                            When it comes to table service, Lorena's is head and shoulders above the others. Very correct and polished, i.e., on a par with Nicholas. The others have service that is decidedly more casual.

                            One last thing. I found the noise level at Dish to be almost uncomfortably high. That has never been a problem at the others.

                            In the end, it inevitably boils down to that French saying, "Chacun a son gout."

                            1. re: RGR

                              RGR - Not speaking French I had to look it up. I took from the context you were saying "to each his own". The acutal translation I understand is "To each individual's taste." Your comparion between Dish and Le Fandy is spot on. However, one works with the image it is trying to sell while the other doesn't. Dish is a casual bistro in all manner and respect - the food, decor, the service and for the most part the pricing. Le Fandy on the other hand doesn't know what it is. In one respect its a bistro with laid back service and casual decor but on the other hand it serves "fine" food with prices to match. Again, don't get me wrong I did enjoy the food and believe Chef Ong is a talent. I just think he needs to make up his mind with the type of restaurant he is trying run. If he wants to serve food of this quality and price he needs to bring up the service and atmosphere to match. One more case in point. Try comparing the bread pudding desserts at both retaurants. Both are priced similarly. Both are rich and decadent and perfectly prepared. Le Fandy's comprised of three to four small bites while the Dish rendition could be enjoyed by the whole table. Small is okay. Such a dish would be appropriate at Nicholas say on its tasting or bar menu. But not here. Not in a bistro. That is where Dish does it right and Le Fandy didn't. Just my two cents.

                              1. re: bgut1

                                bgut, Sorry about the French. I wasn't trying to impress, but I've always thought it's one of those expressions that's well-known.

                                I don't agree that Le Fandy doesn't know what it wants to be. It seems quite obvious that while Chef Ong is serving upscale quality cuisine, he has chosen to do so in a very casual setting. Perhaps some people, like yourself, find those two to be at odds with one another, but I don't.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  RGR - Your exactly correct. Everything is a matter of preference.

                        2. re: bgut1

                          I haven't been to Le Fandy yet, but like yourself, its high on my list due to the high praise on this and other food boards. I do feel the same way as you re Brandl. Good, solid food, but way too casual for the prices they are charging. My most recent meal there for me and my wife ran about $200 with tip. Way too high for the overall experience. For this reason, I too have scratched it off of my list of places to return. I will still get around to trying Le Fandy, but with more tempered expectations.

                          1. re: jsfein

                            Thanks jsfein. Good to see I'm not the only one. Brandl used to be my old time fave. Then for some reason it changed. Portions got smaller and prices (which were on the verge of over the top) went higher. I couldn't stand it any longer and had to scratch it off my list. Its quite the shame as Chis is such an excellent chef. I just feel he might be getting too big for his britches. You might enjoy Le Fandy having more reasonable expectations. I'm sure if you order correctly and go on a slower night, you should have an excellent meal. For me I'll give it another try but in the mean time will keep Dish as my standby. Good luck.

                          2. re: bgut1

                            We went to Le Fandy last night with my husband and 9 year old son. It was good, no where near great! The three of us shared four appetizers, the foie gras, the crab tower, lobster crepes and duck confitt. bgut1, I think I figured out the foie issue, Chef Ong is sweriously into cost and is not using grade A foie but the pre sliced frozen version available to chef's. This is a great move for the cost since there is no waste, but quite bad for the palate. I prefer fresh, grade A., yet it was ok. The best appetizer was the crab tower, nice lump, very fresh, not pasturized, a definite winner! The duck confit was very dry (aka old). The lobster crepe was loved by my son but I found the crepe to be too doughy and took away from the delicate flavor of the lobster. As for our entrees, I had the scallops, hubby the rack of lamb and son had the soup du jour: french onion. The soup was strange with very heavy cinnamon. The lamb was cooked to perfection, but not well trimmed prior to cooking. Scallops were also cooked perfect, but I had to search for them under tons of mesculun. This is where the cost saving features of the kitchen really showed. Every dish we had was garnished (heavily) with mesculun. Why bother with a garnish if you really do not have any available? Even the foie was garnished with mesculun, it was supposed to have pears, but he obviously ony had apples. Again apples were used in several of the desserts so to cut back on waste, why order pears. The signature dish of Halibut we were told was out of season. Halibut is not at all out of season, it is expensive. I am fine with that but spend $5, go to Kinko's and print up an accurate menu! I too really wanted to be blown away, and was not. It was good, just very far from great. Our server was very good, and there is a Tuesday night prix fix menu for $45 a head which kept our bill down by quite a bit, only $140 for all three before tax and tip. I think Chef Ong needs to pay more attention to details. The next time I am craving French I am going back to Bienvenue in Red Bank.

                            1. re: shorebilly

                              it is possible chef ong only uses alaskan halibut which is out of season now until next year.

                              1. re: shorebilly

                                Thanks for the report shorebilly. Its seems that you had a similar experience to mine and its regrettable that things haven't changed. Its been about a year since I last dined at Le Fandy and I have had no interest in returning. Your comment about dining at Bienvenue is interesting. If I'm correct, it is the former Le Petit France, and I recall very mixed reviews about the restaurant both pre and post sale. Any reports you can give? Thanks.

                                1. re: bgut1

                                  We have eaten there twice in the past 6 months. The first time we went we were a bit confused as the dining room was closed but there was a sign on the door that said Le Petit Jardin was open around the corner. They were serving in the very tiny outside area around the side. Absolutely charming! The menu is very small as is the restaurant, it is run by a husband and wife team (he cooks, she serves). The first visit was just my husband and myself. We had escargot that was exceptional and foie gras ravioli also excellent as starters. For dinner hubby had duck leg confitt and I had filet mignon, both really great but the duck leg was some of the best ever! The second time we went we ate in the dinning room (it had gotten a little too cold for outside) and went with the two kids. There is no kiddie menu but our kids are budding foodies so who cares. We again had the same two apps plus a foie terrine and oysters, again all excellent. When it came to entrees we all had duck, because it was just that good the first time! This is not fine dining service mind you, very relaxed and casual, but all of the food is expertly prepared with a whole lot of heart and soul that comes across in it's flavor. I never went to Le Petit France so I cannot comment but we will be going back to Bienvenue, hopefully soon!

                                  1. re: shorebilly

                                    Thanks for the report Shore. I will add it to my "try" list.

                            2. Hate to be a wet blanket here, but my wife and I visited Le Fandy for the first time last night (V-Day), and while most of the food tasted fine, I have some major complaints, considering the bill (without wine of course, ran us up to $150.

                              1. The servers were confused and scatter-brained, with the exception of Eileen, one of the best front-of-the-house people oin the area. More than once, one of the two men working the floor, not counting the busboy/bread-kid, came to us offering dessert before entrees, asking us if anyone had visited the table (they had) and never once checked to see if we needed water or to pour wine into my wife's glass. I had the feeling we were the missing-link table, where no one was sure who was taking care of us. I also had to wonder if the two gentlemen, nice and helpful when asked, were freelancers and were not familiar with the menu.

                              2. My cheese platter, while pretty good, was served for dessert as a savory plate. Why? Yes, I had grapes and preserved walnuts in honey, but also "everything" bread and "everything" crackers. Also, the servers neglected to tell me what cheeses were on my plate and, when asked, weren't really sure. As well, we were not brought fresh silverware for dessert, save for the clean teaspoon that came with our teas, which did not include a saucer or bowl or paper cup (!) in which we could drop our used teabags.

                              3. The food itself: While delicious, the Le Fandy Salad came with a ton of greens, some mushrooms, salty dressing and the smallest packet of filo and goat cheese I've ever seen. It's called a "brick" but a stone or pebble is a better word for it. My wife's butter-poached lobster was in a gigantic bowl with a mention of lobster meat. For our entrees, she chose the Wellington off the special fixed-price menu, which was overcooked and included only a rumor of foie gras pate. My veal included a tasty portion of polenta and thin "veal demi," along with three haricot verdes and a few flavorful but chewy/sinewy chunks, along with a generous slice of veal tenderloin from which someone forgot to remove the string keeping it together (my sharp knife couldn't cut it, so I had a wrestling match to pull it off. Before you ask, the servers were moving so quickly in the small space, I gave up trying to get their attention. As I mentioned, the cheese platter was fine, if mysterious since I still only know 1 or 2 of the 5 cheeses included. My wife's sponge cake with ganache and mocha cream reminded me too much of tiramisu in a different shape.

                              To be honest, I very much enjoyed the overall meal and atmosphere, but expected more out of the little things that I would expect to be near-perfect at a place like this. I would consider going back, but I need to know that these small but important areas are taken care of. I guess I expected more after what I've heard and read (here as well as other places). I can't say it was a total letdown, it was not. But I can't say it was the experience I had hoped for. Hope I don't sound too picky, but I think my expectations weren't set too high for a place like this.

                              21 Replies
                              1. re: aklein

                                aklein,

                                Thanks for the detailed report. Many, like me, feel that dining out on Valentine's Day is a losing proposition since restaurants hike prices, and performance in both execution and service too often falls short. Still, diners on Valentine's Day have every right to judge a restaurant's performance in all areas, *especially* since prices have been jacked up.

                                While I agree that Eileen is an excellent waitress, it's obvious from the details you've provided that there was a *serious* lack of proper service. And I was very surprised when you said the food was "delicious" since after reading your descriptions in #3, it didn't sound at all that way to me.

                                If you've read through this thread, you know that opinions differ quite a bit with regard to Le Fandy. Despite the fact that we have had two meals there, one excellent, and one a little less so, I do take seriously the negative experiences some Hounds have had.

                                As I said, a restaurant shouldn't get a pass for major glitches just because it was Valentine's Day. I do not think you were being too picky in your assessment, and from what you've written here, I can certainly understand why it was not the experience you were looking forward to having.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  RGR:

                                  I think I used "delicious" as an overall keyword, and while some of the items weren't properly cooked or presented, the flavors themselves were good.

                                  I didn't get the feeling that Le Fandy jacked up their prices for the V-Day event with the exception of a three-course fixed price (butter-poached lobster app, wellington, the confusing dessert) at I think $67. The Wellington was a single-serving Wellington, as in a filet mignon wrapped in pastry as opposed to the entire filet sliced into servings. Not sure which is easier for the kitchen, but I assume the former makes things smoother.

                                  In part, I agree with you about any special-occasion holiday being too much for a restaurants, but my rough count was that there were only about 15 tables (some 4s and one 8), mostly two-tops. And with four bodies on the floor, I can't accept the confusion and lack of personalized attention.

                                  Re-reading my post, I think I was a little hesitant to sound too high-maintenance. Trust me, when we run over to the Boathouse for a burger or Vic's for some red-sauce, I adjust my expectations accordingly. Alternatively, if I had had the same experience at Nicholas or David Burke, etc., I would have been downright angry, though still embarrassed that I complained about the details. But then, isn't that what makes an upscale dining experience so great, the details?

                                  Thanks for the comments, I've come to enjoy reading your posts.

                                  1. re: aklein

                                    aklein - I'm sorry that your meal didn't meet your expectations. As usual, I agree with RGR that it being Valentine's Day is no excuse especially in light of the prices most restaurants charge (in this case Le Fandy was the exception). Obviously, it sounds that both the kitchen and staff were overwhelmed which is easily understandable considering the size of the restaurant. As RGR has pointed out, the reviews of Le Fandy are miixed. I too had a disapointing single experience at the restaurant (echoing many of the same points in your review including the lack of service). While I clearly acknowledge Chef Ong's talent, the inconsistency of which you report keeps me from returning. If you do intend to give the restaurant another try I suggest you return on a slower night say during the week. Good Luck.

                                    1. re: bgut1

                                      Now I get the chance to use the acronym I.A.W.B.! lol Definitely middle of the week is the way to go. Both our experiences there were mid-week, Eileen was a wait staff of one, and she provided excellent service. (Note: The second time we were there, val ann c. and her husband were sitting at a nearby table, but we didn't know at the time that we were fellow Hounds.)

                                2. re: aklein

                                  aklein, a detailed (if brutal) review. I, too, had an underwhelming first (and only) experience at Le Fandy. In their defense, however, I must tell you... it is not lawful for them to pour your wine. For that service, you must pay the premium at a liquor-license establishment.

                                  1. re: hotfoodhot

                                    I did not know that, but that was the least of my problems. I can pour wine, but a fresh glass of water would've been nice. I do not want to go to a restaurant that can only handle quality service in the middle of the week when it's slow... a LAME excuse if I have ever heard one. If I want to go out on a Saturday night and drop $150, the they should be willing to do what it takes to smooth out the service problems.

                                    There is NO excuse for being overwhelmed at a restaurant of that size. That's the idea, you have to be able to manage reservations, head count, staff, kitchen timing, etc. It's not as though they were seating 100 people per turn... maybe 35?

                                    1. re: aklein

                                      aklein - I agree about the size comment. I too think that no matter what the size they should have been prepared for a full house. If they accepted all those reservations, they had an obligation to staff it properly and give each patron the same level of expected service and quality.

                                  2. re: aklein

                                    Fellow Hounds, I need some advice. We are trying to make a choice between Fromagerie or Le Fandy for a birthday celebration this week (alas, so far no cancellations at Nicholas). We will be a party of five. I would also appreciate alternative suggestions. Thanks.

                                    1. re: rnr

                                      I've had two very nice dinners at Le Fandy. But I'm disturbed by all the reports of inconsistency and spotty service. If you do choose Le Fandy, you might trying phoning the chef and asking for something special. Just a hunch... it may put him on his game and make sure you get good attention.

                                      I haven't been to Fromagerie since the ownership changed.

                                      1. re: rnr

                                        rnr,

                                        Both Fromagerie and Le Fandy have too many mixed reviews, which, in my view, make them iffy for a celebratory meal. Instead, if you must stick to that geographical area, I would suggest you go to Table, which gets uniformly positive reviews. You might want to consider doing the chef's table. Six of us Hounds did it recently, and it was terrific! You can read all about it here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/480440

                                        More reviews here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403524

                                        If you are willing to go further geographically, tell us how far (travel time), and we can make other suggestions.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          A very different experience than ours. 4 of us went during the summer. Nice room, decent enough service but the food was at best average and some worse than that.
                                          We had been looking forward to the meal and our friends from North Jersey drove down in anticipation.
                                          One persons ceiling is another persons floor :)

                                          Tom

                                          1. re: tom246

                                            Tom,

                                            I have no problem with someone's opinion differing from mine about Table, but I would appreciate it if you would provide details about what you ate and in what way(s) you found it lacking.

                                            1. re: RGR

                                              It was back in July. I don't remember the appetizers but for sure they were not memorable.
                                              Entrees were Colorado Rack of Lamb which was tough and fatty. A steak which again was tough. Fish served in parchment which was bland.
                                              Can't remember the last entree. Considering the quality Table IMHO is very overpriced..

                                              Tom

                                              1. re: tom246

                                                Tom your report is surprising. While I don't doubt your experience, I have to respond that RGR and my recent dining experience was superb and we both had the same rack of lamb that you did. I'm sure that RGR will agree with me that it was one of the best rack prepartions either of us have ever had and we both commented that its a dish we both usual order out at restaurants. As far as the steaks are concerned, on a prior occassion I have tremendously enjoyed the huge cowboy steak. From what I recall, the steak is marinated for three days and it was fork tender. Again, while I don't doubt you didn't enjoy your meal, I would strongly suggest you give Table another try.

                                                1. re: bgut1

                                                  What you said, bgut! :-)

                                                  I'm sure you recall that in my write-up of our dinner at the chef's table, I raved about the rack of lamb and said it was one of the best I've ever had. As for the cowboy steak, Mr. R. ordered it and since it was so humoungous, we took home such an enormous portion that I was able to put together *two* dinner meals for both of us from it. And even re-heated, the steak was still tender and delicious. That, to me, says a lot!

                                                  Also, as you know, Mr. R. and I returned to Table for dinner two weeks ago, had another delicious meal, and, again, took home a boatload of leftovers that when re-heated retained their excellence.

                                                  All this said by both of us, under my usual maxim that a restaurant has only one chance to make a first impression, I have the distinct feeling that we won't be able to convince Tom to give Table another try. :-(

                                            2. re: tom246

                                              "One persons ceiling is another persons floor."
                                              Tom - While I agree with that statement, I have to tell you that both my and RGR's "ceiling" is quite high. I too have dined at Table and found the food to be very good.

                                              1. re: bgut1

                                                Actually, b., Mr. R. would say that when it comes to judging restaurants, my ceiling is through the roof! Translation: Picky, picky picky. lol

                                                1. re: bgut1

                                                  Hi bgut1
                                                  Thats what makes the restaurant business so interesting. Different people can go to the same restaurant and have wildly different opinions.

                                                  Tom

                                            3. re: rnr

                                              Rnr, two good choices. I don't think you can go wrong either way. Fromagerie is the better atmosphere of the two, if that's what you're looking for. And since it has a bar it will be more pricey with the drinks. You'll get better service at Fromagerie, too. The waiter we always get at Le Fandy seems a bit too casual and loses his focus. The bread doesn't come out until we ask for it. We always love our food so we overlook the waiters.
                                              I'm a big fan of Table and yet the other couple we usually dine with doesn't seem overly impressed with the place. He's not crazy about the crowd and she thinks the waitress is grumpy.
                                              To each his own, I always say.
                                              The food at Thyme Square is always top notch. The service isn't. We were there on Saturday and our waiter was definitely overwhelmed with too many tables. He almost seemed snippy. The man and woman in the front never made the rounds to make sure we were properly served. I just don't understand sometimes. Things that are so easy to fix and they don't seem to notice.

                                              1. re: Pink Pepper

                                                Excellent recommendation Pink. Although I've never dined at the Fromagerie, I have been to David Burke and Donatella and the menus look very similar. If the Fromagerie is anything like DB&B, I would think it would fill rnr's requirements.

                                                1. re: bgut1

                                                  We've never been to DB&D, but from reading the very mixed reviews on this board about Fromagerie since Burke took it over, it doesn't sound as though it measures up to his NY restaurant. Although we've been to Fromagerie before Burke bought it (our last meal was a disappointment), it is precisely those reviews that have kept me from trying Burke's Fromagerie though I have given some consideration to going for the Friday lunch.

                                          2. I too had a disappointing experience at Le Fandy when I went there in May. My appetizer of sweetbreads was mushy and flavorless. We ordered the cheese platter and when I asked the waitress if the cheeses should be eaten in any particular order--she shrugged and said that you could just eat them any way you liked. I wasn't asking her permission! What I wanted to know, and what she should have offered upon serving the platter, was what each cheese was and its relative mildness. That sort of uninformed service should not accompany the high price point. Finally, I took a risk and ordered the floating island dessert-- which breaks with tradition and is served with chocolate mousse. That too was a disappointment--both overly sweet and overly dark chocolatey. Just a misstep in my book. I had higher hopes and in all likelihood won't return.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: yve

                                              Your experience with the cheese is a really good illustration of the poor -- and in this case, non-existent -- foh training, which I discussed in my previous post.

                                              I think there's an overall problem that stems from the fact that the owner hasn't managed to decide exactly what kind of restaurant he envisions Le Fandy to be, i.e., a very casual bistro vs. a more polished restaurant. The price structure points to the latter while, in reality, not only is it more the former, but from all the complaints here about the service, it appears too often not to measure up to what one expects even in a more casual environment.