It’s always a mistake to let the world in on your latest find, a restaurant where it’s already hard to get reservations and after I write this will become impossible. But the owner of this ordinary bistro with extraordinary food worthy of the highest temple of cuisine is from Scarsdale, so I write this in the hope that we can keep it a secret in the 10583 zip code.
La Mangeoire isn’t in the most convenient part of town, that is, not in the theatre district, not near Lincoln Center, not even near New York City’s best shopping, but it is, as the Guide Michelin says of restaurants it awards three stars, vaut le detour.
Gerard Donato, of Scarsdale, has run this Provencal jewel for 30 years -- at least three lifetimes for a New York restaurant -- but he has now been joined by Christian Delouvrier, whose previous turns in the kitchen were (no less) with Alain Ducasse at the high temple of cuisine in The Essex House, and at the equally luxe Maurice at Le Parker Meridian. He also presided over Lespinasse.
But M. Delouvrier was looking for something different and at the same time, M. Donato tells me, he was looking for a chef. And what a chef he found. This inspired collaboration allows Mr. Delouvrier to bring the finesse of haut cuisine to a comfortable, unfussy bistro environment with what I like to think of as real French food – the kind of country cooking that he learned at the knee of his grandmother.
He reproduces the home cooking I used to get in Dijon, where the mother of the family that took me in was, I thought, probably the best cook in France --and where I gained fifteen pounds in one summer, even while bicycling all over the country. Perhaps it was there that I learned the real meaning of the word cochon.
And believe me, you may be tempted to eat like a pig at this mangeoire. The word is translated, literally, as the feeding trough.
Here, the roast chicken is succulent, a juicy whole bird with crusty skin served on a bed of pommes frites that seem never to have touched any oil. It would be a bargain at twice the price of $60, which serves three! My 10-year-old epicurean son adored the very simple salad that is included in the price – just lettuce and vinaigrette -- and he kept trying to find out what made it so delicious. (He wants me to get the recipe for the dressing.) I go for the chicken every time, but each evening there’s a plat du jour – lamb one night, pork another – so you’ll never get bored with the selection no matter how often you go back, which I’m sure you will. And don’t stint on the country pate with your aperitif. Served with perfect bread, it’s divine.
Wines that pair well with the cuisine are carefully chosen with attention to price as well as taste, and are available by the glass as well as by the bottle.
Although I’d had my fill by the time dessert was offered, the rice pudding intrigued me and I was sorely tempted -- until I remembered those fifteen French pounds. I respected my waistline this time but, typically accommodating, they came up with an off-the-menu hot fudge sundae for my delighted son.
Scarsdale has a grand restauranteur. Don’t tell anybody! Please.
1008 Second Avenue
New York. N.Y.
Marilyn Berger is a journalist, epicure and author of This Is A Soul, the story of an amazing American doctor who saves lives in Ethiopia.