In New York, it's lucky to have a restaurant last more than 20 days, let alone 20 years. Midtown's Le Colonial, a classic French Vietnamese restaurant is celebrating its twentieth year with a new chef, Ron Wing Wee Hsu, and a new menu. Chef Hsu is an eight year veteran of Le Bernadin. He grew up working in his parents' Chinese restaurants in Atlanta, and after culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia, he traveled in Asia, and cooked in restaurants in Japan. Chef Hsu focuses on Chinese and French technique, combining skills gleaned from Le Bernardin, and his own leanings toward very bright flavor, to create a new direction and menu for Le Colonial. And at 31 years old, Chef Hsu is barely older than the restaurant himself, but his precision and inspired menu make him seem nothing but sophisticated.
In order to ease regulars from the old to the new Le Colonial is featuring a Then and Now tasting menu until May 9 to introduce its new menu.
The six-course anniversary menu is split between classic Vietnamese dishes and contemporary dishes that demonstrate Chef Hsu's more adventurous culinary style. Diners can mix and match between the old and new, allowing a customization of each tasting menu to individual preferences. The six course tasting menu will be offered at $80 per person ($125 with wine pairings).
Don't miss the Le Colonial Pho, made with foie gras infused oxtail broth, for a rich, umami flavorful rendition of the classic soup. A thin slice of beef is served raw and cooked delicately as hot broth is poured over the dish of rice noodles. This is not your grab-and-go downtown pho, and any fan of Vietnamese cuisine must try this enhanced, luxurious version.
Also of note on the menu is the So Diep Tai Chanh: flash cured scallop ceviche topped with crispy dehydrated shrimp and creamy coconut lemongrass nage. The combination of textures, from the smooth, thin scallops to the crunchy toppers, as well as sweet and salty, makes for a fantastic opening to the meal. From the old menu, Bo Luc Lac, wok seared beef filet with watercress, baby tomatoes, crispy lotus root, and black pepper vinaigrette is tender and juicy, an expertly cooked steak that we hope to see on the new menu.
Wine Director Marie Vayron inventively pairs French wines with Chef Hsu's Vietnamese menu, truly bringing out his subtle flavors and bolder ingredient expressions, just with a sip of chardonnay or bourdeaux.
I'd recommend ordering the tasting menu with another person, one choosing the Then and the other enjoying the Now, in order to enjoy a bit of each course. Portions are generous: the six-course tasting could easily be a person's only meal for the day. And after enjoying some of the rich and schockingly flavorful dishes, you may not be so excited to enjoy your next meal not at Le Colonial.
Adding to Le Colonial's new young team of talent is mixologist Moses LaBoy (preveiously of Ginny's and Red Rooster) who is introducing new spring cocktails that are variations of Stingers, Mai-Tais and Singapore Slings, as well as unique signature cocktails like the Apollo (fresh ginger, sage, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white). Before or after your meal, enjoy a cocktail in the upstairs lounge, decorated with lush red velvet and leopard print, for an exotic vibe that also offers an all too comfortable drinking environment, that can easily decieve you into ordering more and more of LaBoy's tasty cocktails.