Went to La Petite Auberge on lower Lexington Avenue on Saturday.
As someone who loves French food, but is on a tight budget, I haven't had a regular place to go since La Grillade disappeared (they were at roughly 50th Street & 8th Avenue, and they were homey, economical, and fine).
Had seen La Petite Auberge praised on these boards and I was attracted by their reasonably priced prix fixe ($27). The place was half empty at 8:30 p.m., and the diners that were there were quite mature.
The menu was classic old-style French; the execution was mediocre. A mushroom soup special lacked any zip. A pork special in a port wine sauce was gloppy and unappetizing, and neither my wife nor I finished it. (Point: My wife and I had been attracted by this special, but they had run out and only had one order left. So she ordered a filet of sole with a sauce prepared for monkfish, and didn't especially like it).
She did enjoy her desert of home-made ice cream; I thought the chocolate mouse was heavy and far too dense.
Shan't be back.
Regulars to this board know that I'm a huge fan of La Petite Auberge, so I'm sorry you had such a disappointing meal. We've been there countless times during the 30 years it's been open, and we've always found the food to be solidly-prepared and delicious. Granted, we generally stick to what have become for us tried-and-true dishes. But that shouldn't mean other dishes should not be just as good, so I can't account for what you felt were mediocre preparations.
LPA's patron base does tilt heavily toward the mature set, but lately I've noticed many more younger diners there. As with many restaurants during summer weekends, patronage is slower; however, the rest of the year, on Saturday nights, it is often jammed.
Btw, I remember La Grillade.
re: Liquid Sky
Aside from whether you liked the food, I think you're missing the point about LPA. It is not meant to be fresh, hip and of-the-moment. Its clientele likes it specifically *because* it is a throwback to the kind of French bistros that dotted the Manhattan landscape back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Sadly, most of them are gone while LPA soldiers on. I suspect the slightly shabby, yet cozy and comfortable ambiance, along with the traditional fare, is what's attracting the younger diners I've seen lately.
LPA does a great job with classics like canard a l'orange and steak au poivre. And when they have it, the whole Dover sole is delicious. I'd be curious to know which main courses you found forgettable.
I've not been to Jarnac, but I have been to Artisanal (twice), and I don't think it's a particularly apt place for comparison to LPA. More brasserie-style than bistro, it's big and loud. I've had service problems there -- something I've never encountered at LPA. As regards the food, I consider it to be more modern French than traditional, and I was disappointed with some of what I ate there.
As I like to say, "Chacun a son gout." :-)
To answer your question, what prompted my original comment were two specials: mushroom soup (I forget the precise type of mushroom soup) and side of pork in a port wine sauce. One of the best meals I've ever had was a pork dish in a wine sauce in Paris, so granted I had high expectations.
The soup was pureed and so thick that it reminded me of an Italian bread soup. There was no zip to it; it was bland and thick, more like a liquified porridge. No pronounced mushroom flavor either.
The pork dish was just poorly presented. The pieces were large, rather than a scallopine type, and the sauce had too much thickener in it, so it was gloppy. As I said in my original post, neither I nor my wife wanted to finish it. And to top it off, they ran out of it by 8:30 pm on Saturday night.
I have nothing against classic French dishes like steak au poivre...they just weren't on the prix fixe side of the menu--which is why I was there to begin with.