Paris hasn’t been the easiest place for New Yorkers to reach this snowy winter (much as we all want to get away). That may be why so many Upper East Siders chose the next best thing on a frigid Tuesday night: Sel et Poivre, the authentically Gallic bistro that has been a neighborhood staple for nearly 25 years.
This intimate, comfortable space works just as well for a romantic dinner for two as it does for catching up with old friends. No matter who you are, or why you’re there, husband-and-wife co-owners Christian and Pamela Schienle will make sure you are well fed and well taken care of. (And if you need help with the extensive wine list, the charming Christian is an expert sommelier who will guide you to just the right selection.)
Given the February chill, it was hardly surprising to see many patrons begin their meal with the authentic French onion soup, but an even more appealing option is the house’s fish soup, which features a bracing red snapper-based broth that you can top with slices of toasted bread, cheese, and a wonderfully garlicky roux for added flavor.
The menu also offers a wide variety of other starters, including a rustic pate of the day, a cleverly deconstructed lobster salad where the tender crustacean gets some needed kick from both a spicy avocado puree and a dash of grapefruit coulis, and a disk of hearty garlic sausage accompanied by a mouth-filling warm lentil salad.
Choosing from the menu’s vast array of entrees is a challenge, with so many mouthwatering options, ranging from a classic duck a l’orange, an appealing steak au poivre, and even calf’s liver Lyonnaise that I’ve been assured would delight even a liver hater like me. That said, you absolutely, positively can’t go wrong with melt-in-your mouth skate swathed in a zesty yet delicate lemon-caper sauce, served along a simple disc of long grain rice.
And when it comes to dessert, I promise you’ll be totally satisfied with a feather-light terrine de chocolate that will disappear from your plate so quickly there won’t even be time for your tablemate to steal a swallow.