Chez Napoleon is one of these old school French restaurants I wish to see more often in New York: casual and cozy, not pretencious, this is the perfect place to try some French classics like escargots, frog legs, cassoulet or liver. If you are vegetarian, you might be out of luck, the only choices being in the hors-d'oeuvre section (appetizers). This place, opened in 1960 and now run by a third family, the Brunos, is special to my heart as this is where we went for our second date with Jodi a long, long time ago and I recall, as a former vegetarian, she courageously tried the escargots, frog legs and rabbit that we got, not really liking them, but still impressive...
We often talked about going back and finally decided to go on a Friday night, early. The place was not that packed at first, but then patrons started to arrive in this tiny place that has two dining rooms (if you are a large party, it could be challenging and you may want to let them know before). The decor there is interesting, old fashioned, as if it never changed: black and white photos of the Brunos, as well as the puzzles or posters of Napoleon that are everywhere. The authenticity of the place is even more highlighted by the old school service and the old French music, from Edith Piaf to...French cancan! So I mentioned the term "old" several times: don't get me wrong, you do not need to wait for retirement before going there, but for sure you will not find modern cuisine at Chez Napoleon: they really serve classic dishes, some rarely on menus of French restaurants, giving to this place a small edge as far as traditional French cuisine is concerned. They offer a 3-course pre-theater menu for $25, and know that they put few restrictions for diners: for instance, there is a minimum of one entree or three appetizers per persons; or, if you share the bouillabaisse (traditional fish soup), a $10 charge per person is added. So, come with an empty stomach and you will not regret it! Here is what we had:
As a drink, I hesitated between their nice selection of martinis or a glass of wine and finally settled for a glass of Riesling that was perfect for what I was going to eat.
They then brought some bread that was a bit chewy, but, more noticeably was the salad dressing that came with it, for dipping.
For appetizer, I hesitated between the foie gras and the escargots and went for the latter. The escargots came in ceramic shells, a first time I got them served this way. They were quite good, although I wish there was more of that delicious garlic butter that I also ate with some bread.
For my entree, I decided to go for the frog legs, so this would be the exact same menu as the last time we went. The frog legs were quite big, sautéed in garlic butter (I know: lots of garlic that day...). It was succulent and I liked the fact that were not tiny like some restaurants serve them, where you have more bones than meat.
Jodi on her side got the sole meuniere, that is cooked in butter and lemon: the fish was really good, well cooked definitely.
Both entrees were served with boiled potatoes that were a bit boring, as well as a small portion of the vegetables of the day: haricots verts.
Last was dessert: we decided to go for the creme caramel and the chocolate mousse. The latter was a bit of a let down, missing chocolate taste, but the creme caramel was really good.
Overall we had a great dinner at Chez Napoleon: this is a good place to know if you want to try really traditional French food. I definitely recommend it.
Enjoy (I did)!
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Chez Napoleon - 365 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019