By David Minsky
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By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
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By Laine Doss
When it comes to entrées, the sole aux amandes ($24.95) must be one of the better deals in town (I've paid as much as $50 for sole in South Florida). The French really know what to do with a piece of fish, and this one is moist and melting under its blanket of beurre blanc, scattered with toasty slivers of almonds. Both chicken dishes we sampled, one in peppercorn sauce and the other prepared à la Niçoise with black olives and tomatoes, were surprisingly tender, juicy, and richly flavored, given what can happen to an innocent chicken breast in a restaurant kitchen.
"Vero is a perfectionist," Doherty confided on one trip to our table. "That's why we don't do hamburgers — it takes too much effort to get them exactly right." Certainly the quality of fish and chicken attest to Leroux's high standards. Her tomato Niçoise sauce is probably a bit sweeter than I like my marinara, and the copious quantity of green peppercorns in the whiskey-flavored cream sauce might seem like overkill to any supertasters out there (I love green peppercorns and can practically eat them straight from the jar), but these niggling caveats feel ungenerous. Particularly when you consider the sides: meal-sized dishes of gratinéed potatoes dauphinois baked in butter and cream, lightly crusted on top and fragrant with nutmeg; or the fantastic halved, grilled tomatoes Provençale ($5.95) coated with bread crumbs and fines herbes; or the luxurious, olive oil-infused ratatouille ($6.95) with its shiny ribbons of multicolored peppers and onions; or addictive, batter-fried green beans ($3.95).
There's also a gratin macaroni made with béchamel and Swiss cheese; onion rings; and shoestring French fries, making the place a vegetarian's paradise, so long as that vegetarian isn't counting calories. And if the vegetarian also happens to be a lush: The macaroni is delicious with Doherty's favorite rosé, a Rhone Valley Chateau d'Aquéria ($6.50 for a glass or $33 a bottle) from the Tavel region of France, famous for its rosés. I'm practically fanatical for rosés after this long hot summer, and this one is not only refreshing but it's a great bargain.
Leroux's homemade pear tart ($6.50) is the poire version of tarte tatin: buttery pie crust topped with glistening, sweetened slices of ripe, baked pears — it's served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and it's delicious. As is the ultralight yet deeply flavored chocolate mousse ($5.50). Desserts this good are calculated to gently smooth the edges off even the briniest old bitch: Maybe I've got a grain or two of sugar n spice left in me after all.