Classic Tables: Raoul's

The Soho bistro still buzzes after more than 30 years

Raoul's is a joint with class. Check your coat at the door. The bartender's tie is tucked neatly into his white button-down and the waiters clear the crumbs off your table after each course. There's also a bubbling fish tank dividing its two dining rooms. And a bathroom reached by spiral staircase and past psychic readings for thirty bucks a pop.

In other words, it's idiosyncratic and romantic, kind of perfect and relatively unchanged since it opened in 1975.

Everyone looks good in the soft pink glow cast by the bar's Art Deco fixtures. Under the gazes of nudes lining the walls, you'll see everyone from first dates to regulars who've been there since time immortal.

Raoul's steak au poivre

A recent visit confirmed that the food is still solid: Frisée tendrils ($12) come topped with a poached egg that spills out over meaty lardons. A hollowed-out, steamed artichoke ($12) is crowned with lightly dressed watercress and the thinnest of radish slivers. Dip the leaves in its lemony hollandaise, and it's easy to forget how the neighborhood's been taken over by goody-goody juice bars.

The hit of cream in the steak au poivre ($39) sauce, crunchy with peppercorn bits, as well as the quality of that mess of frites served alongside, prove attention is still being paid to crucial details.

The menu is scrawled in French, presented on a chalkboard at each table. Raoul's is a keeper: It's both a place to raise a glass to the Soho of old, and a sexy room with good French fries and an enduring charm.