The scene at Le Fat Poodle. Photographs courtesy La Fat Poodle.
On a Saturday night early in the year, just a couple of weeks after Le Fat Poodle has launched, we are seated on a well-upholstered banquette in a full restaurant, facing the open kitchen and taking in the scene. And what a scene it is: A party of four, arriving without a reservation, is being turned away at the door; a passing waiter, brandishing a pepper-mill the size of a spaceship, has narrowly missed knocking off a guest’s Carolina Herrera glasses; and Eartha Kitt is purring “Let’s Do It” at top-vol, inadvertently contributing to the restaurant’s already off-the-scale decibel count. As for me, I’m already rather loving this joint — although I may well require tympanoplasty by the end of dinner.
Located in a glorious 1930s red brick building, which was originally the Old Greenwich Post Office and, more recently, the Arcadia Café, Le Fat Poodle is the new one from Antoine Blech and Anshu Vidyarthi, they of Le Penguin in Greenwich fame. With its beautiful bleached-wood floors, original moldings, palm trees at each end of the long room and Colonial-style ceiling fans, the space is French Indochina meets West Village hip, with a bit of ’70s wine bar in the mix.
Unlike Le Penguin, of which I am a fan, but whose French identity almost reaches the level of pastiche — “Allo, allo! Le PEEN-goo-anne of Green-witch” — answered a chirpy male staff member the last time I called the restaurant), the Poodle, despite its name, is not in thrall to France. Instead, it unapologetically plunders the world’s larders for inspiration, which, while admittedly giving some variety, does make for a bit of a farrago.
The menu enthusiastically crisscrosses the USA, with its New York strip steak, shrimp and grits and Hawaiian pu pu platter, before heading on to Asia for sticky Korean chicken wings. It then continues for a whistle-stop tour of Europe, where Spain, France and Italy are all represented, and some Belgian beer is thrown in for good measure. The wine list, by the way, which is exclusively French and domestic, is solid, but ambitiously priced — $22 for a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, and the fizz can quickly evaporate.
“Waiter bring me shad roe”: This is not my actual instruction to the server, of course (although, truth to tell, I’m a sucker for this delicacy, which will be coming into season as you read this page). I’m merely lip-syncing to Eartha. And while the Poodle doesn’t serve shad in any form, there are nonetheless delights a-plenty from the sea. These include local oysters on the half shell, with a classic mignonette sauce, pingingly fresh lobster and king crab, as well as Cod à la Basquaise, a firm slab of glossy fish with a gutsy tomato and red-pepper sauce, spiked with prosciutto. In the aforementioned pu pu platter starter, apparently one of the restaurant’s best selling-dishes, we found the chicken and beef to be dry, but a Veal Pot Pie entrée, with the flakiest golden crust and cubes of tender veal in a rich gravy, found its mark.
A few weeks later, I’m back for lunch, admiring the eponymous doggie stencil on the restaurant’s back wall. From the smallish lunch menu, a first-class Tuna Tartare, made using good grade tuna on a guacamole base, comes buried beneath giant corn chips whose oiliness not even the generous slug of lime in the avocado can cut. But a Croque Madame, that luxurious version of a grilled cheese sandwich with an inset sunny side up egg, served on a rustic plate with some properly dressed salad leaves to the side, is spot-on. So is a warm Tarte Tatin — delicious, soft, sweet apples on a characteristically malleable crust — while other desserts we really like include a light-as-you-like lemon tart and a lickety-spit banana split, heavy on the caramel but none the worse for that.
Service at the Poodle, you should know, is sweet and for the most part deft, and the place seems imbued with a nicely seductive, laidback vibe. But I have to say, I’m still musing on the restaurant’s name. While I understand that calling it “Le” Poodle suggests a bit of fancy French, I can’t help wondering about the “Fat.” That’s because, despite the many carbs on the menu, including potato purée and superb French fries, I’ve yet to see anyone in the room above a size 8 — and that includes the guys. In fact, I’ve even heard “petites” get a discount. No, I’m just kidding about that last one.
Le Fat Poodle is open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Weekend lunch is until 3 p.m.) The restaurant does not serve hard liquor, only wine, beer and sake. We recommend the shellfish, the Croque Monsieur/Madame, Cod à la Basquaise, Veal Pot Pie, Duck à l’Orange and the Tarte Tatin. Pair these with the J. Marr Napa Chardonnay and the Louis Max Pinot Noir from Burgundy.
Le Fat Poodle is at 20 Arcadia Road, Old Greenwich. For more, call 203-717-1515 or visit lefatpoodle.com.