Such was the day, July 27th at Chez Lucienne, the stunning sun, the wide blue sky—against the people bustling about 125th Street.
Chez Lucienne is located at 308 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY 10027. My lunch meeting with Nadine Chevreux was at twelve o’clock noontime. We sat outside underneath a round jade green umbrella; whereabouts, men, women and children walked at a hurried pace, as well as others were huddled at the M7 and M102 bus stop. I settled in the snug, classic bistro wicker chair.
In an instant, the waiter came to take our orders. I ordered the Le Saumon Roti (roasted
salmon, watercress sauce on a sesame brioche roll for $9.95); Ms. Chevreux ordered the Les Moules Dijonnaises (farm raised steamed mussels, Dijon mustard sauce, shallots for $10.95); and we both ordered a ginger ale soft drink. Just when I started to ask her a question, she stared at a meter maid, and said, “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”
I glanced at the pair of wide-opened, vintage, yellow French doors, and wandered inside the French Bistro. A waiter was standing at the great doorway. “Hello,” I said.
“Hello,” she said. “Let me know if you need anything. My name is Shannon.”
“Thanks, Shannon,” I replied. I took in the brick walls, the ceiling fans, and the aesthetic lighting fixtures of exposed bulbs. Several customers sat at the dark chocolate oak bar and some in the jade leather booths. All the while, the music returned me to four years before when I had visited Paris. Another waiter was nearby, and I said, “I like your music. What are you playing?”
“The music,” he paused. It’s Pandora,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said, and strolled back to my table. Nadine walked-up at the same time. Seconds later, our meal arrived. I asked, “How long has Chez Lucienne been in Harlem?”
“My husband, Alain, and I opened Chez Lucienne three years ago,” she said. “We moved to Harlem ten years ago, and raised our four sons here, it seems ages ago. My family and I love living in Harlem.”
“How would you describe Chez Lucienne?” I asked.
“We are a casual place, not pretentious; a neighborhood place,” she replied. “It was a struggle in the beginning, but people came, and the regulars kept coming. Our customers and tourists are delighted we are here. They thank us for being in the community. Now, it’s a way of life, it’s our home.”
I smiled, and said, “My Le Saumon Roti was simply amazing. I see a lot of delectables that
my friends would like, such as: Steak Tartare Chez Lucienne, Croque Monsieur a Cheval, and the Escargots De Bourgogne Paysanne. But of course, the Chez Lucienne’s Classic Burger would make my nephew, Victor and niece, Dahlia, very happy.”
“Thank you,” Nadine said. “You know, we have another restaurant, Café Du Soleil (2723
Broadway, New York, 10025) at 104th Street.
“Fantastic,” I said. “I have a final question. Tell me, what would you say to a customer—she has never traveled to France; and another customer—he has lived in France his
entire life. They both come to Chez Lucienne. They both leave with a thought—what would that be?”
Nadine removed her chic sunglasses; her glowing smile glistened with the dynamic energy of Lenox Avenue. She said, “Oh, maybe a little France for an hour, or hours in the neighborhood we call home.”
I nodded, and not two minutes later, we said good bye. I dashed to the IRT, #2 train at 125th Street. While I waited, the announcer said, “The downtown train is two stops away.” I pulled out my pen and paper, and wrote: Chez Lucienne is Quintessential. I crossed it out—and wrote: Chez Lucienne is Quintessential French.
Catch Chez Lucienne at www.chezlucienne.com