Best Wine Pairing Restaurant in the Big Apple
In a town like New York, where the pace is cutthroat and the definition of “hip” is updated more frequently than a teenager’s Facebook status, staying on board with all the current trends can seem an insurmountable task. In fashion, the arts, and especially in food and wine, what’s popular one day is suddenly passé the next, and in this whirlwind of a city, between all the passing fads and hectic schedules, I often find myself craving a simpler, more timeless sort of experience. We seek out “un-manipulated” wines, devoid of gimmick, that are pure and honest expressions of their terroir, and that taste delicious. Why shouldn’t we seek out this type of authenticity and quality in life? Just as I was about to despair of ever encountering that classic quality again in this city, a recent dinner at the Simone, a restaurant on the Upper East Side, helped restore my faith. As I prepared my notepad and intend to take everything down on my note on the night’s special dinner, I just know this will be unforgettable.
I never knew what I missed out on by not dining at the former Bonne Soiree restaurant in Chapel Hill during the time I lived in New York City. Husband-and-wife team, chef Chip Smith and wine expert Tina Vaughn, opened Bonne Soiree in 2006 and closed in 2011 when The Courtyard development on Franklin Street changed direction. That decision was my loss — or rather, my stomach’s — as I learned earlier this month when I dined at The Simone, the couple’s new restaurant in New York City. The Simone opened on the Upper East Side in late October last year and even got a mention by The New York Times.
According to my dining companions who were Bonne Soiree regulars, The Simone is very similar to Bonne Soiree. It is a cozy, intimate space with only 34 seats. Chip’s food is the same artful execution of timeless French dishes. Tina’s handwritten menus remain, as well as her bubbly table-side persona and killer wine acumen. (I learned that the way to dine at The Simone is to choose your courses and let Tina choose the wine pairings.) Tina has an incredible talent for wine pairings. I learned that her talent so complimented Chip’s cuisine that it made for the perfect dinner experience.
And here, wine importer Neal Rosenthal, whose old-world repertoire dominates the list, plays an even more crucial role: He introduced Smith and Vaughn to their business partner, Robert Margolis, a retired Litchfield County restaurateur looking for a new project. No wonder the trio named the space after a Rosenthal wine: Provence’s Château Simone.
The Simone has an Old-World graciousness that I rarely encounter in New York these days. Though formal, the atmosphere is warm and hospitable, never stuffy or uptight. Moreover, though, this is a restaurant with a profound respect for wine, and an understanding of the role that food should play in coaxing out all of the many splendid nuances in the glass. Tina had tasted each dish multiple times alongside its matched wine, tweaking details, until she felt the pairings were perfect. There are no gimmicks, tricks, or trends at the Simone–simply an attention to detail, and an understanding of the myriad ways in which wine and food can weave together harmoniously, elevating our senses, and resulting in the sort of gustatory experience that is… well, timeless.