36 Main St, Southampton
When Le Charlot, an Upper East Side restaurant opened a Southampton branch last September it filled a gap on the East End. Despite the diversity of Hampton’s restaurants, there is a dearth of French eating places there; surprising since so many serious diners consider French cuisine the epitome of fine cuisine. But Le Charlot’s early foray showed mixed results.
Now in its first full season this light, bright, all white, discretely decorated restaurant generates an obvious aura of sophistication. Yet, when dishes arrive at tables they are auctioned off as in “Who gets the cod?” and wine service is more primitive than expert. Additionally, Le Charlot’s menu is pricey. Most main courses are in the $30 range, some approaching $40, and the least expensive bottle of wine costs $40.
The five appetizers sampled illustrated the culinary peaks and valleys encountered. The robust, gutsy onion soup held a superb beef stock with a mellow melted Gruyère cheese cap ($14). The generous mound of frisée with lardons, croutons and nuts crowned with a soft boiled egg ($14) that should be split and allowed to pervade the ingredients was an exemplary version of the dish.
Less exciting, but nevertheless satisfying, was the soothing baked brie and puffed pastry enhanced by Balsamic vinaigrette ($16). But a small turret of bland, tasteless, heart of palm and avocado salad ($13) lacked any seasoning and the country pâté ($15) was dry and could have been enlivened by a few more drops of the scant Dijon mustard that accompanied it.
More than any other single dish the huge bowl of mussels with leeks and white wine ($25) typified the erratic nature of Le Charlot’s fare. The mussels were plump and fresh but a good half of them harbored off-putting sandy grit. The delicate, tender cod ($33) was unfortunately slightly over cooked but the roasted organic chicken with velvety mashed potatoes ($30) was juicy perfection, as was a bountiful plate of thin crisp French fries. So too was the warm crunchy bread, but when the basket is empty, don’t expect a refill.
A rich, rewarding chocolate mousse ($11) was by far the most outstanding sweet followed by a warm, tasty tarte tatin ($11). La Bombe praline and profiteroles ($11) were ordinary at best. Less than ordinary was the wine service. We were not shown the bottle before it was served to insure it was what we ordered. It was not opened at our table. The person who ordered it was not offered a preliminary taste, women were not served first and after the bottle was empty our waiter mistakenly filled our glasses with wine from another table.