East End Eats: It’s No Bombshell

Le Charlot is an attractive restaurant located in Southampton where Barrister’s used to be
A stylish room doesn’t mask indifferent service and “weird” food at Southampton’s Le Charlot restaurant. Morgan McGivern

“Bah humbug,” you may think after reading this review. Or “She sure is a Grumpy Cat!” Sorry, but this job is essentially to provide a community and consumer service. Therefore, I am obligated to tell you about a recent evening I spent pushing food around my plate and being treated indifferently for a few hours, and then paying for it.

Le Charlot is an attractive restaurant located in Southampton where Barrister’s used to be. It has white walls, ceiling fans, red and white bistro chairs, and dark red leather and ultrasuede banquettes around the periphery. There are large pictures on the walls of gorgeous and sexy and tragic American actors such as Steve McQueen and Marilyn Monroe. And, of course, Brigitte Bardot.

You get some nice French bread and butter upon being seated.

On most occasions I dine with two or three more guests. That way the others can chat while I observe and scribble and steal bites of food off their plates. I figure three appetizers, three entrees, and three desserts are a fair enough representation of the kitchen’s abilities. When there are only two of us, as there were on this visit, I always order some food to go to sample later. I chose not to on this occasion, as we had already blown The Star’s wad and some of our own money on dinner for two. That, and I had tasted enough.

We began our meal with tuna tartare and an avocado and hearts of palm salad. They were both okay. The tuna tartare was served in a square shape with a good deal of avocado salad underneath. The tuna was described as having a wasabi dressing, which wasn’t detectable, but did have some Asian flavors as in soy sauce and sesame oil. There were a few strips of fried wonton wrappers on top that tasted as though the oil in the deep fryer hadn’t been changed since it was still Barrister’s. The green salad alongside had no discernible dressing other than oil. My friend Sam insisted this was probably intentional as a foil for the rich tuna.

Sam wanted very badly to like this restaurant as he lives around the corner and desperately wants a good French restaurant in Southampton. Sorry, Sam. The avocado and hearts of palm salad was pretty good. It was served in a round shape with endive leaves around the plate, cubes of tomato, and chopped chives.

For entrees we ordered the organic roasted chicken and steak tartare with French fries and salad. The chicken was boring and had the most peculiar presentation and sides. Okay, it wasn’t boring, it was weird. The chicken lacked seasoning, and it was barely lukewarm. The “natural garlic juice” was a pale pink liquid at the bottom of the plate without much flavor from chicken or garlic. The mashed potatoes served with it had so much whole grain mustard in them that the vinegary flavor actually tasted more like bottled key lime juice. I swear to God, that’s what it tasted like! Also on the plate were little bundles of the tips of haricots verts (you know, the part you discard) wrapped in raw bacon. Hey, where’s the rest of my beans? I like the middle parts!

The steak tartare was creamy and mediocre. Some of the chunks of beef were disconcertingly large. You could not taste any of the traditionally added ingredients such as capers or shallots or mustard. The green salad served with it was the same underdressed salad as before, but this time had a few shallots or red onion, so perhaps it had been tossed more completely. It still lacked vinegar and salt. The French fries were of the frozen variety, rather thick, but pretty good. A dish of ketchup was on the plate with them.

The service was indifferent. Finding out what kinds of wine by the glass were available was like pulling teeth. “Red” and “white” are not the most helpful flavor descriptors. Our waitress’s attitude may have been more appropriate if we’d asked her to tie our shoes or wipe our noses, you know, like kind of an out of line request or huge inappropriate favor.

Prices at Le Charlot are moderate to expensive, but I’m leaning on the expensive side considering the quality of the food. Appetizers are $11 to $25, entrees are $25 to $37, desserts are $10. Our wine by the glass was $14. Ouch.

For desserts (made in house) we ordered the chocolate mousse and tart tatin. The chocolate mousse was okay. It was a bit gluey with no air in it, but it did taste like chocolate. The tart tatin was a disgrace. Or “clunky” as Sam more aptly described it. It had plenty of sugary caramel flavor and lots and lots of apples, but the pastry bottom had gotten soggy and disappeared probably days ago.

An observant waiter or waitress would notice plates with most of the food left on them. My avocado and hearts of palm salad had been nibbled at, the chicken barely touched, and the desserts had perhaps three bites taken out of them. Our waitress whisked all away with nary an inquiry as to why the food was still there. Zut alors!

After spending over $100 each for our meal, I’d like to say the evening was saved by slipping over to St. Ambroeus for samples of pistachio and mint chip gelato but I’d be lying. Because I’m Grumpy Cat.

The bar at Le Charlot, like the rest of the restaurant, looks hip and stylish. Morgan McGivern