A French Connection in Hartsdale
Worth the trek, if you can find it.
Sitting at a window table at Chez Claude in Hartsdale, looking down a steep hill at glittering lights, I had a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu about a meal I enjoyed 40 years ago at a place called ChÃ¢teau
Though the glittering lights at ChÃ¢teau Madrid were from some tycoon’s yacht cruising the Mediterranean and those at Chez Claude were from cars along Central Avenue, ironically ChÃ¢teau Madrid was all view and mediocre food, while the cuisine at Chez Claude, complemented by a vast, reasonably priced wine list, is as good as you will find just about anywhere in the county.
On a recent visit, the Arctic char (one of the few restaurant fish that isn’t farm-raised) was prepared to such perfection, we asked chef and owner Claude Moreau, formerly head chef at both (the recently closed) Bistro Maxime in Chappaqua and at Le ChÃ¢teau in South Salem, to share his technique. It was pan-seared, skin-side up, he told us, and finished off in the oven. Simple—and simply delicious.
On another occasion, we had the succulent roasted rack of lamb crusted with herbs, which lived up to its reputation as the best lamb in Westchester. On the same occasion, I savored the beef tenderloin with melted Roquefort cheese, seared on the outside with a ribbon of pink down the middle. Because my guest doesn’t drink, I passed on the wine list and enjoyed a very nice glass of Chilean Cabernet.
On a return visit, accompanied by my friend, The Wine Expert, we dug into the carte de vin, which features nearly a hundred selections. While there is the obligatory $1,200 trophy bottle of ChÃ¢teau Lafite, most wines are priced about a third less than you would expect on a restaurant menu, and there is a broad selection of nice wines from good vintages and good shippers in the $65 range. There are also a few inexpensive selections, including some very nice wines for as little as $25 a bottle. With my friend’s Arctic char and my artistically arranged sautÃ©ed shrimp, we shared a $28 bottle of St. Veran.
Before Moreau bought it two years ago, Chez Claude was a Westchester fixture known as Auberge Argenteuil; he changed the name last year. Along with the name change came the wine cellar, which Moreau has patiently built bottle-by-bottle.
Chez Claude is a place for people who have never heard the words “Atkins” or “South Beach.” The food is richly prepared in the Julia Child tradition (i.e., no concern for calories or carbohydrates) and artfully presented.
There were some minor glitches on my visits, however. I expected the red pepper sauce underneath my grilled shrimp appetizer to have punch, but it was bland. On one occasion, we ordered the dessert specialty, the Grand Marnier soufflÃ©, but the oven malfunctioned, we were told, and the soufflÃ© fell. One guest complained that his foie gras didn’t seem fresh. All in all, minor quibbles compared with the overall standard.
Chez Claude is tricky to find; miss a turn off Central Avenue and you are in a maze of dead-end streets with no left turns. When you do arrive, you’ll be glad you did because, except for a few minor kinks, dinner at Chez Claude is a real treat.
42 North Healy Ave., Hartsdale, NY
Mon. to Fri. 5:30-9 pm
Sat. 5:30-9:30 pm
Sun. 1-7 pm