Francophile Foodies + Buffet de la Gare = a Gastronomic Love Affair
Substitute the Hudson for the Seine and viola! A Left Bank-like French bistro here in Hastings
It would be nearly impossible to not love Buffet de la Gare. Tin ceilings and rich burgundy painted tin walls, wood floors and brass chandeliers, the breathy French chanteuse pouring her aching heart out through the sound systemâ€¦ I am back in my beloved bistro in Paris, but it has been polished and cleaned, and a collection of charming Quimper dishes now adorns the walls. The grumbling Parisian servers in well-worn tuxes have been replaced by courteous staff who actually seem eager to please. Dare I say it: it’s Paris, but better.
Our meals are just what this elegant, embracing atmosphere deserves. Classic dishes are executed with flawless balance and timing, giving one a sense of precise and beautiful choreography in the kitchen.
Lustrous sable-brown duck leg confit arrives snuggled on a bed of green lentils, the crisp skin contrasting with the rich, moist meat and lentils. This is where generations of culinary evolution have brought us: it is a heartwarming, soul-satisfying dish, perfect for a cold winter night.
A poussin bathed in a raisin-port sauce hovered dangerously close to the too-sweet border but artfully never crossed it; the result was decadent and delicious. The meat of the little chicken was moist and tender—flavorful enough on its own but even better with the garnet red sauce.
Chef and co-owner Gwenael Goulet is a classic French cook, and the true art of his fare is especially evident in his sauces. Don’t misunderstand: the execution elsewhere is impeccable (the golden sear on our sweet, tender scallops was so perfect, the plate looked like a retouched magazine photo). But the lovely tomato Champagne sauce on those scallops, with just enough acidity to enhance the flavor of the sea and just enough butter to tie it all together—that is where Goulet’s star shines.
Cassoulet is a dish to enjoy on a cold night and is best eaten in a warm, unhurried atmosphere between sips of a big red wine. Buffet de la Gare’s version of this hearty casserole from the southwest of France is rich with the distinctive flavors of lamb, sausage, and duck confit harmonized in a heady base of beans, sweet slow-cooked onions and meat juices.
Not all the charm of Buffet de la Gare comes from the kitchen, though. Annie Goulet, Gwenael’s wife and co-owner of the restaurant, is a gracious host who watches over her dining room with a keen eye—even as she is chatting with one patron and bidding a warm farewell to another. This is clearly Annie Goulet’s dining room; she tends seamlessly to every diner’s need, manages the wait staff, and greets each and every guest.
But in all honesty, when it came to the tarte Tatin for dessert, it wouldn’t have mattered how lovely the atmosphere or the host; I would savor every bite just as much sitting on a stoop in a dank alley. The Buffet de la Gare version does not have the edge of burned sugar classically associated with tarte Tatin, but the layers of apples baked upside-down with butter and an appropriately moderate amount of sugar was, quite simply, one of the best I’ve had outside of Paris.
When Madame Goulet bid us farewell at the end of the meal, it is testament to both the ambience she has created in the dining room and her husband’s skill in the kitchen that we found ourselves, much as we would upon leaving a friend’s home, thanking her for a lovely evening
BUFFET DE LA GARE
155 Southside Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson
Lunch, Thur. and Fri. 12-2 pm
Dinner, Tue. to Sat. 6-9:30 pm