Do You Know Alain Eigenmann?
When my wife and I first met Alain Eigenmann, maybe twenty years ago or so, it was when he and his compatriots from France needed to rent a car. Hardly speaking English and no credit card in sight, this group of four; 2 chefs, 1 Maitre’D and one unknown, would drive off happy in their Rent-A-Wreck, to restaurant’s that sponsored their visits.
Over the next 20 years, our friendship grew as did our waist lines and appetite for fine French foods. I can recall the first Alain’s Bistro, maybe fifteen years ago in Norwood, NJ. My kids, then about 8 and 10, dressed in blue blazers, slacks and dress shirts, would wander the restaurant, seeking out any customers that might be in need of more bread or wine. It was there, that they learned how to make special sauces and Floating Islands in the kitchen, of this concerned and borderline hyper, Chef de Cuisine, Alain Eigenmann.
Fast forward to the present. I can now say with some authority, Alain is now, not only a friend but also someone we very much admire for his commitment and accomplishment, to both elegance of food preparation and detail to service, in the new Alain’s Bistro, 9 Ingalls St, Nyack, NY. Yet, under it all, it is strictly about the food and being true to itself, not disguised in unrelated fusions and nonsense.
He is indeed the consummate French showman in this divinely created “old” bistro, the atmosphere of which is reminiscent of many a Paris night, on either bank, when my wife and kids sought out some of the restaurant treasures, hidden away in the most romantic shadows, in the “Cite de la lumiere”, where the food is the star and the owner its creator and steward,,,simple and delicious.
Every detail has a story and an animated one at that. Alain goes into great minutia as to where a certain fish is from and how he imported it, that it is “…fresher than fresh”, or how in some special market, was he able to ferret out some unique vegetable and from that, out comes a platter, as a work of beauty in both presentation and taste. Food, first and foremost, is an art form in most authentic French restaurants, here at Alain’s, it distinguishes itself from most.
With arms flailing at our table, we are hearing about the details with minute attention, of a new menu creation, as his eyes dart to every movement in the establishment no matter what direction it comes from, as he continues on with his story. He sees everything. As the waitress passes he sizes up the presentation in less than a millisecond … he leaps up to meet a guest at the doorway, then leads them to table of choice.
He returns to our table, after a quick visit to the kitchen, not missing a beat of the interrupted sentence of moments ago. Up again, to bid farewell to table #3 who seems to have enjoyed everything from soup to dessert.
He is a “meeter and greeter”, gracious and as gregarious as a street performer, yet as he sits table-side, he makes you feel like you are his only best friend in the room. His passion and French charm is real if not disarming at times, but the cuisine is what certainly seals the deal.
He makes a quick detour to the bar,,, a pour of wine for a guest, which he sees to himself. Energy abounds which we all take note of….let’s not forget he spent the entire morning in the kitchen, working with his 2nd chef that he has mentored for an eternity; not behind him, but leading him, in planning and preparing, for each day is another wonderful and edible adventure.
Notwithstanding all this darting about in his crisp white coat emblazoned with accolades from his French training and awards , this bistro is a Broadway stage for a performance of fine food, delicate detail and spontaneous combustion , all at the hands of Alain Eigenmann.
I leave you all with a thought…who the hell could pack a restaurant in this incredulous location, unless it was indeed, a destination…Go seek it out!