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Jul 1, 2008 09:32 AM

A truly bizarre restaurant experience at Chez le Chef

I had a coffee date with a friend and was going to go to one of my fave places, Penelope, but they were packed and there was a 20 minute wait and my friend could not wait that long. We walked down the street and passed by a place on Lexington and 29th, Chez le Chef, that looked like a cute little French bistro. We figured, cool, we'll go there. We just wanted some coffee, maybe a fruit salad or something. So we went in and the place was completely empty - well, it's early, we figured, and most people were not eating lunch yet. So the chef (as evidenced by his full chef's uniform and hat) told us to take a seat upstairs. The place looked like, as my friend puts it "a Hallmark card." There were Christmas AND Valentine's day decorations everywhere and a mural on the wall with a tree and an owl. There were also are all these pictures on the wall of the Chef - Chef Frederic. He himself took our order. So we ordered a regular coffee, a cafe au lait, a croissant, and two fruit salads. We got the croissant and it was actually totally undercooked in the middle. I took one bite and did not eat another. It came with some kind of preserves and they smelled totally off - did not bother to taste that. Then we got the fruit salads, and the fruit on top tasted fine, then I got a little further in and the fruit started to taste really odd - turns out there was some kind of syrup/liquor in the dish, really over-the-top sweet and cloying. Then, my friend put milk in her coffee and the milk actually curdled. A busboy then came over and noticed we did not eat the croissant, and I said "Well it's actually undercooked" and he replies "It's fresh!" "It may be fresh," I said (although it clearly was not), "but it's undercooked." He responded, "You can pay downstairs" and took the croissant away. He did not bother to ask us why we did not eat our fruit salads or drink our coffees. Then we went downstairs to pay, and they charged us THIRTY DOLLARS for this meal of which we barely even took four bites. My friend paid the bill as she was in a rush and just wanted us to get out of there. Oddly enough, the chef seemed oblivious to the fact that we did not eat/like our items, even offering us two small cookies on our way out (which I declined). The whole experience was best characterized as extremely strange.

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  1. Thanks for that report. Hallmark card is a perfect description. I always pass by the place on my way to Kalustayan's and think it's the most oddly decorated restaurant I've ever seen. Now I know not to bother.

    1. Yeah, I went there a few years back with an out of town friend. The wait staff were disinterested as was "Frederick" who was also very strange. Food was blah and not worthy of being served. I felt cheated as I probably could have made it myself (and I'm not that great a cook!). Can't remember what I had since it was awhile ago, but I don't think that was the issue.

      1. I'm so sorry you and your friend had to suffer through that experience. Unfortunately, the two of you stumbled into what has to be one of the strangest restaurants in our neighborhood . Many years ago, my daughter and I had dinner there. Huge mistake! A chef/owner who is a certified oddball (some might be less kind and call him a nut) + mediocre food = disaster. How that place has remained in business all these years is a total mystery to me.

        3 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          I used to live 2 blocks away and totally agree! The first time I went it was fine. We went for brunch during a snow storm and had some relatively good eggs but the second time the service was horrific and Frederick was stranger than strange. He behaved as if we should be honored to be eating in his restaurant, though all the tables were empty. Very odd.

          1. re: foodie4life

            Sorry about your experience. However, to make a broad statement, it appears that the quality and service of NYC restaurants has been in a rapid decline. Twice in the past week I received subpar service and did not get the dish as I ordered. I didn't complain either time, so shame on me. I'd like to think that I will speak up in the future.

            1. re: fsd1116

              I'm sorry that you have had two bad experiences in one week. But imo, that doesn't mean quality and service in NYC restaurants in general is in "rapid decline."

              We dined in four spots this past weekend. In addition to delicious food, we received prompt, courteous service in all of them. In fact, I can't remember the last time we had truly below par service in any NYC restaurant.

              I do agree that if something isn't right about the dish you ordered, you should promptly bring it to your server's attention.

              As far as Chez le Chef is concerned, frankly, it's such a totally weird place, it pretty much defies comparison to any other NYC restaurant.