The Simone, NYC
September 9, 2014
Tina Vaughn and her chef husband, Chip Smith, had a French restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. They closed it and eventually opened The Simone in November 2013 at Lexington Avenue and 82nd Street. It is named after a Provençal wine, a favorite of their business partner, who has a house in the South of France. In early June, Pete Wells in The New York Times gave The Simone a rave review with three NYT stars. Tony joined Linda and me for dinner at The Simone on August 19, 2014. The menu is handwritten in an elaborate script. A few specials of the evening are also announced at the table. There is no tasting menu or prix fixe offering. We started with a bottle of 2012 Yves Cuilleron, Chavanay, Condrieu for our aperitif and into the first course. This was eventually followed by a bottle of 2008 Domaine Lionnet “Terre Brulée” Cornas.
Both wines were very good of their type and went well with the cuisine.
Tony started with a sautéed foie gras special of the evening, which he said was perfectly cooked, very tasty and well supported by the fruit, salad and crisp brioche although was perhaps a bit physically overwhelmed by its companions.
Linda and I had the
Sweetbreads, crispy seared, spring onion, capers, ham, lemon, brown butter
The flat pieces of sweetbreads were topped by a crisp breaded crust that made a nice contrast to the unctuous meat. The garnishes were classic and good, perhaps overly dominated by the capers.
The main course for Tony and Linda was
Rabbit, tender braised thigh, grilled loin, Carolina field peas, Jersey sweet corn, green beans, kale and piquillos
The braised thigh on the right was flavored by the sweet Spanish piquillo peppers on top of it. The loin was tender and good.
Lamb, domestic rack, oven-roasted, sautée of peas, spring onion, fresh herbs, and polpettes (house-made tiny meatballs of ground lamb and ricotta.)
The lamb had a lovely flavor and was perfectly cooked. The caramelized little onions and the polpettes were assertive without overdoing it.
My dessert was a “Lord Baltimore Cake.”
This mini version of a traditional southern teatime cake was enhanced by its caramel on the soft meringue topping. Inside were chopped candied fruits, nuts and layers of Genoise sponge cake. Very good.
We had a good time and enjoyed the slightly updated traditional French cuisine. It is really quite extraordinary to open a restaurant like this nowadays: white tablecloths, quiet music, no tasting menu, no snacks or mignardises, no overspicing or surprise chili, traditional garnishes, no discourses on the dishes as they are served. There is no Open Table, etc. The only way to reserve one of the eleven tables is by phone, or, as I did, stopping in as I was walking by a month before. Tina Vaughn is a welcoming hostess and is willing to chat with her customers along with running the dining room. The night we were there we did not seem to raise the average age, as we do in almost any restaurant. I imagine that much of the clientèle can walk to The Simone, as we did. We’ll be back to The Simone.