For the longtime reader who wondered why Cafe Renaissance, which she believes equals some of the finest restaurants in Paris, is rarely reviewed, the answer is simple: It is hard enough to keep up with all the new restaurants as it is, without revisiting old favorites.
But that may not be a satisfying answer. It makes sense to check on the old-timers occasionally, if only to be sure quality of food and service hasn't slipped, but also to alert newcomers to the area to longtime favorites.
Clearly, Cafe Renaissance falls into the longtime favorites category, and, yes, food and service remain exceptional.
A term that has been used to describe Cafe Renaissance is “romantic,” and it fits. The room is small and cozy, seating 40 at most — another 20 in a side room — but it is elegant, a lace curtain concealing the cars parked outside the window, gilded sconces and reproductions of famous paintings on the walls. Tables are set with white linen, and handsome utensils and dishes add to the setting.
Best of all, the acoustic-tiled ceiling dampens noise so effectively that it is possible to have a conversation without shouting, or being involved in the conversation at the neighboring table.
Service is so knowledgeable, gracious and attentive that regular guests and even newcomers feel special, questions are answered readily and suggestions about dishes, wines and desserts abound.
As for the food, it matches everything else: exceptional. The menu is mostly French, with some Italian, and maybe New York — if there is such a thing — touches. With plenty of dishes and flavors to choose from, it would be hard to go wrong, and there should be something to satisfy everyone.
Among the appetizers, the garlicky escargot are served on mushroom caps, and the rich, creamy vichyssoise is flavored with pumpkin — a subtle but satisfying combination. Other options include calamari in a light tomato sauce, stuffed eggplant, and carpaccio of beef tenderloin.
The chef knows how to cook fish. Salmon is offered several ways, but a special with pesto shows how well. The fish was cooked perfectly, moist and tender, and the pesto was an interesting addition. The same was true of medallions of monkfish, which can be tricky to cook, and probably every other dish on the menu. Veal scallopini, for instance, is offered “as you wish.” which includes Marsala, piccata, Francais, Normand (in a Calvados cream sauce), and in a cognac cream sauce.
The high point of the entrees, though, may be the vegetables artfully arranged around the entree, which recently included roasted potatoes, string beans, roasted parsnips, mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and beets, all cooked to perfection, which, if you have ever tried it, is a triumph.
One must not ignore dessert, where choices include chocolate or Grand Marnier souffle, creme brulee, zabaglione, tiramisu, dark chocolate mousse cake, ricotta cheesecake, and fruit tart. To simplify the decision, share a sampler plate.
So, thanks to the reader for her suggestion. More old favorites to come — along with the newcomers.