Dining in (Grand) Style
La PanetiÃ¨re offers a blissful trip back to the elegant days of dining in haute style
There was a time when dining out meant donning a jacket and tie or heels and good pearls; when eating at a restaurant was an Occasion. La PanetiÃ¨re harkens back to those times in a journey both alluring and delightful.
Within the soft pale yellow walls, legions of staff glide quietly around a dining room filled with charming ProvenÃ§al tableware and antiques, keeping tables looking beautiful and patrons pleased. From unobtrusive busboys to smiling waiters with courtly manners and European accents, the service is, quite simply, flawless.
The classic dining room appointments and manners convey elegance— without crossing that perilous border into stuffiness. The environment is neither haughty nor intimidating; rather, there is an understated romance, a kind of retro-loveliness that imparts on guests a warm glow of sated comfort.
From our first taste of the amuse—on one night, a beguiling tomato soup spiked with just a hint of orange; on another, a surprisingly light fried ravioli filled with spinach, seasoned beef, and just enough air—to the last bite of a quince tart Tatin lounging in green-apple foam, not a single dish took a misstep.
How enchanted was I by a first course of soupe de poisson, with saffron and pastis in balance like that of a fine bouillabaisse? Mais oui, it was served with garlic croutons and rouille; this is bouillabaisse broth, enriched just enough to stand on its own as the introduction to a meal.
Twice when dining at La PanetiÃ¨re, I encountered the restaurant’s preserved tomatoes: once, surrounding a perfectly moist halibut filet served over sweet, soft fennel; and then again, aboard a lobster gratin, an outrageously delicious dish of pasta layered with spinach and peppers and topped with gorgeous, coral-colored lobster claws and tails, all swimming in a lobster-and-truffle cream sauce. The sauce, incidentally, was so rich and flavorful I still thought about it two days later. The sweet, musky preserved tomatoes (canned, we were told, months before on the premises) served as a catalyst to the subtle sea flavor of the halibut, but with the lobster, those same tomatoes offered a brilliant stroke of mild acidity to balance out all the heady richness.
Don’t despair if you prefer creatures of the land rather than of the sea: you’ll be equally enthralled by the tender, flavorful veal loin accompanied by sweetbreads and the roasted buttery potato wedges that remind us just how much we love this humble tuber.
Perhaps it is now considered dated to have dinner brought to the table covered with cloches, and then in one dramatic pull, servers reveal all the plates together—but dated or not, the sight and smell of all these gems at once made us exhale in delight.
One such cloche (all of which, it should be noted, match the hand-painted ProvenÃ§al dinnerware) revealed a frenched pheasant breast resting atop a puck of cabbage-encased minced pheasant, foie gras, and truffle whose flavor somehow managed to live up to the incomparable aroma of all that in a Madeira sauce.
There were other wonderful dishes, too. If I had the opportunity to work my way through the menu, the dishes I’d return to would be the scallop ceviche, a starter of overlapping whisper-thin slices of scallop and potato served with a shock of caper-pickle mayonnaise; or perhaps the mignonettes of foie gras. And once again, I’m sure, I would revel in the luxury of the desserts. But asking me to choose between the grilled pineapple on shortbread, the sweet chocolate soufflÃ© given muscle with a deep, dark chocolate sauce, or that wonderful selection of cheese that made me remember why I once skipped a sweet dessert, would be like asking a mother to pick a favorite child.
And as much as I’d go back for the fare and the inviting return to the halcyon days of dining, I would also look forward to seeing again the warm smile of the restaurant manager, who noticed us looking at the lovely antique cabinet which, he explained, is the panetiÃ¨re—the bread cabinet for which the restaurant is named.
530 Milton Rd., Rye
Lunch, Tue. to Fri. and Sun. 12-2:30 pm
Dinner, Mon. to Sat. 6-9:30 pm, Sun. 5-8:30 pm
2 courses: $48
3 courses: $62
6 course tasting menu: $78