Contemporary French and American cuisine comes through loud and clear in North Salem
Vox means voice in Latin, and this restaurant certainly strives for a unique one. Recently revamping their family’s 27-year-old Auberge Maxime, owners Jean and Sophie LeBris named Vox for a movie theater in their hometown of Concarneau in Brittany. Bowls of popcorn, classic film posters and even a row of theater seats in the bar pay a cinematic tribute to the name, but I prefer the etymological one. Chef Christopher Cipollone, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and all of 24, has a voice so commanding, it should resound to the farthest outposts of the northern
Take his blueberry-perfumed seared foie gras, its crackling bliss revealing a silky molten interior. We’re deep into hedonism realm here, eager to inhale every last drop of its red-wine balsamic reduction. But darn, there’s a spoilsport: a sodden bed of spinach, a vegetable that has no place anywhere near a slice of foie gras. I recoup with a special of mussel soup, its shellfish broth tinged with saffron, cream and just enough wine and cayenne to burn a bit in back of the throat like an admonishment to remember its charms.
I’m still in the realm here, just switching modes from elitist to populist as I munch on the frites accompanying my son’s wine-garlic-shallot steamed mussels. In fact, we’re all grabbing away, poor kid—such crispness, such saltiness, such ethereal crunch. The lusty Caesar salad does nothing to slake our mania; would it be too much to ask for another of its accompanying black olive crostini?
I steady myself with a long, velvet swallow of Jean-Luc Colombo’s fruit-sated 2003 CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne, one of 15 wines-by-the-glass on Vox’s French-accentuated list. It’ll be heaven with my duck in plum wine sauce—but what’s this? The breast slices come braised-brown, and I’m dejected—but only for an instant. Our waitress promises rosy replacements and, sure enough, they are, succulent within their ribboned perimeters of fat and crisp skin. Then heaven it is, the plum wine sauce tuned to perfect pitch, the dried plums and black Chinese rice a crescendo of flavor and texture.
Cipollone’s voice is in full aria now. There’s ahi tuna buffeted by a trade wind of Moroccan spices, tempered with raisin-suffused couscous, then soothed by a compote of preserved lemons. A glass of 2001 Montagny Chardonnay and a chorus of asparagus, oven-dried tomatoes and fingerlings back a near-virtuoso solo of seared sea scallops, excessive salt its one clunker.
Desserts waver in showmanship but not—doughy pear tarte excluded—in technique. A dome of warm chocolate cake works sorcery with its potion of crÃ¨me anglaise, and the crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e defies convention with its caramelized cap and florid custard. I sip a robust cappuccino, take in the timbered ceiling and soft halos of globe sconces on white linen, and sense that, like its theater muse in Concarneau, this Vox will lure a devoted audience.
721 Titicus Road, North Salem
Lunch, Thurs. to Sat. 12-2:30 pm
Dinner, Wed. to Sat. 5:30-10 pm, Sunday 5:30-8 pm
Sunday brunch, 12-2:30 pm