It’s with eager anticipation that I pick up my little bowl of Belgian hot chocolate at the new Le Pain Quotidien in Roosevelt Field. Essentially, it's steamed milk, a swirl of dark chocolate on top, a pitcher of melted chocolate alongside. But even after I’ve mixed in all the chocolate, the drink is missing something. It’s beautiful but bland.
In many ways, that hot chocolate sums up my experiences at Long Island’s first branch of an international chain with roots in Belgium. The place is a visual knockout. There’s a takeout counter with breads and pastries (baked off-site) at the entryway and, inside, a stunning country French dining room furnished with pale, rustic wood. A long communal table spans the center.
Servers, while good-natured, need better training. And while nothing on the menu tops $18, your dining dollars may not go very far.
Although the Belgian waffle here may be authentic, it’s minuscule — dense, hard and pebbled with sugar. If you’ve come for breakfast, the oatmeal with bananas and walnuts is far more satisfying. Bypass the spelt and quinoa scone, which is more like a stone.
Tartines (open-faced sandwiches) come on dense organic (a byword here) whole-wheat bread. Better than the version stingily topped with dry, flavorless curried chicken salad is one slathered with butter and draped with smoked salmon, scallion, dill and avocado. Avocado toast, part of a “baker’s lunch,” features that same bread thinly glossed with avocado, olive oil, citrus-cumin salt and chia seeds. It’s served with a kale-carrot salad and a bowl of very good chickpea soup.
Another day, a vibrant carrot soup stands out, as does a lush and creamy vegetable quiche. An otherwise lovely roasted chicken Cobb salad is dressed with a downright strange smoked tea dressing. Much more satisfying is a full-flavored Tunisian chicken stew with a quinoa-almond pilaf.
A worthwhile finale: Banoffee tart with dulce de leche, banana and whipped cream. Or if your meal has dragged on too long, pick up the fine pain au chocolat at the bakery counter.