Review: Le Gamin Country, A Parisian Post In Hudson
By David McDonald
In his groundbreaking book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain talked about the hardest challenge for a restaurant: maintaining consistency. Sure, many restaurants can come up with a transcendent meal every now and then. But doing it consistently? That’s an entirely different challenge.
It’s a challenge more than ably met by Le Gamin Country on Warren Street in Hudson. I’ve been eating there for four or five years, and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d simply never had a dud meal there. And heaven knows, in all of those years, I’ve tried just about everything on their menu, from omelets to salads to soups. It’s always good, often transcendent, and never less than highly professional.
Le Gamin Country is the brainchild of husband and wife team Patrick and Astrid Jehanno. Patrick was executive chef/partner of the original Le Gamin series of restaurants in New York City, and both he and Astrid are long-time veterans of the business. But this restaurant has a personality very different from the ones in the city, and it all starts with the food.
Food photos courtesy Natasha Kox.
First, though, a caveat: if you’re like many of Le Gamin’s regulars, you may fixate on the first dish you try, ordering it over and over, simply because it’s the best of its kind you’ve ever had.
With me, it started with the classic Quiche Lorraine, its compelling mix of air, cheese, and smokiness from the fresh, thick-cut bacon. It took me about six months before I tried something else. Then I got on the French Onion Soup ($7.50) groove. It’s so densely loaded with fresh chicken stock, onions, gruyere cheese and French bread that it makes other restaurants’ versions seem like watery knockoffs. As an avid soup maker, I’ve tried many times to recreate Le Gamin’s deliciously satisfying recipe. In ten tries, I think I may have succeeded once.
The salads are impeccably fresh (particularly recommended: La Salade Nicoise, a French classic; and Endives Au Roquefort Et Pommes Vinaigrette La Lavande , endive salad with Roquefort cheese, apples, and walnuts; both $12.50 and enough to feed two). The crepes, either sweet or savory (try the salmon fumée crepe, shown right), are always flawlessly made ($5 for simple, up to $8.75). There’s a cliché in the food business about the French and their eggs, but every time I go to Le Gamin, I marvel at the perfection of Patrick’s technique with des oeufs.
There’s usually one dish on their daily menu that could classify as a dinner meal, which might include merguez or mussels. Also very European: their collection of old French advertising signs and their decidedly pet-friendly policy at the tables out front, where well-behaved pets are treated as welcome customers.
The single most unique element of Le Gamin Country has very much to do with the personalities of Patrick and Astrid, who run the restaurant in what I imagine to be a very old-school French manner. To those who are her friends, Astrid is the definition of the archetypal French restaurant owner, treating you like royalty, blessing you by her mere presence at your table. A withering glance of disapproval from Astrid is enough to spur the parents of the occasional unruly child to action and silence quickly any overly demanding customer. She certainly goes to bat for her people and is a beloved presence among regular customers in Hudson.
Hudson may be growing in leaps and bounds, but on its main drag, there is always a perpetual reminder of Paris.
Le Gamin Country
609 Warren Street, between 6th & 7th Streets
Open every day except Wednesday.
Le Gamin is a cash-only establishment.