Restaurant Review: Le Charlot in Southampton

At Le Charlot there’s great food and atmosphere and that handsome and welcoming, oh-so-French restaurateur Thierry Gelormini. As my husband and I sat down at a window table for two last Monday, our server, Max, immediately popped out an extension of the table to render it “gastronome size.” My reputation precedes me.

One of Gelormini’s first questions to me was “Do you like vodka?” It wasn’t a come-on, just a step in the right direction. My husband had already settled on a glass of house white, a Pino Grigio, and Gelormini assured me that bartender Yannick Brito has a way with vodka. Before I’d finished a glass of Brito’s work I agreed. Vodka with a hit of St. Germain liqueur and a splash of cranberry juice felt just right for this holiday shopping season. It was sweet but balanced, very refreshing with great color. This drink does not have a moniker, but some of the best things to consume unfurl themselves without the burden of a specific name. You can just ask for Brito’s special vodka cocktail.

Though predominantly French, Le Charlot’s wine list includes a selection from one of our best local wineries, Wölffer Estate Vineyards.

We had the option of “all-u-can-eat mussels & fries,” on offer Monday through Wednesday for $26. I expect we’ll go back for that some time. On special was Cajun chicken with fries or a choice of vegetable. But we wanted to try the hearty winter menu items.

Husband started with the Salmon Tartare, which he declared “not the typically Asian-inflected variety” and nicely moist. A scattering of diced red pepper and chopped chives enlivened the plate.

I started with what, despite the overall high quality of the meal, was a particular standout: the Belgian Endive & Pear Salad. A beautiful study in pale—walnuts, freshly ground black pepper and arugula set against the pears, endive and Roquefort. Of course its subtle flavors and crunch, against the bite of Rouqefort, are what most endeared it to me.

Max proclaimed the cassoulet ALMOST better than his own mother’s. High praise from a Frenchman who has spent the last 15 years in the Caribbean, away from home. So Husband had to try it. Husband’s mother is vegan so her cooking oeuvre does not touch on the meat fest that is a traditional cassoulet of pork and garlic sausage and duck confit cooked slowly over white beans. This son of a vegan exclaimed, “Oh, man! These are some RICH beans!”

I ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon—something I indulge in about twice a year, in cold weather. Served with a “flag” of fresh rosemary on top, these tender chunks of beef and tagliatelle in red wine sauce with braised pearl onions are exactly on the mark—pure beefiness with a touch of vegetal bliss from diced carrots and mushrooms.

Max wisely suggested we get some bread to sop up all the goodness. Though earlier we’d refused it, we were now rewarded with a high-quality sliced baguette.

Husband had a very hot decaf coffee with heated cream to close the meal and I had my usual herbal peppermint tea. Of course we shared a slice of tarte Tatin, because that is what one does in a restaurant this French. The apples were reduced to a soft mass, much like us.

Last Friday, Husband and I went back for more—a pre-holiday lunch. We were again treated to jazzy tunes that included Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, while we gazed out at the Christmas lights and hurrying shoppers along Southampton’s Main Street. Husband indulged in a Croque Monsieur. I, of course, had the Belgian Endive & Pear Salad.

Le Charlot, 36 Main Street, Southampton, 631-353-3222, lecharlot.us

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