There’s one fewer étoile in the Long Island dining universe: Chez Noelle in Port Washington appears to have closed — lights off, tables removed, phone disconnected. The French restaurant opened in 1988 and, for the next 28 years, served the kind of classic cuisine that once was synonymous with fine dining in the United States: Salade Niçoise, duck a l’orange, Dover sole meunière, braised sweetbreads, escargots á la Bourguignonne.
An apple tarte Tatin I ate there in 2009 wound up on my list of best things I ate that year. “You get served a lot of apple tarts that call themselves ‘Tatin,’ ” I wrote, “but the real article is all too rare. I was floored by the specimen — hot, flaky, caramelized — that capped a very accomplished dinner at Chez Noelle.”
In his initial review, Newsday’s Peter Gianotti called Chez Noelle “French without compromise,” noting that on Long Island, “first-growth French restaurants total fewer than premier-cru wines in Bordeaux. They’ve struggled to take root where Italian competitors sprout as if wild.”
That sentiment is, if anything, truer today than in 1988. Only two old-school French restaurants endure, Le Soir in Bayport (est. 1977) and La Coquille in Manhasset (est. 1969). We wish them bonne chance.