The Restaurant Scene of 1958

It's hard to remember the big restaurants from last year, let alone from a couple of decades ago, but I recently came across Life Magazine's Picture Cookbook. They do a round-up of "the best" restaurants in the world (circa 1958) and I thought it'd be info-taining to reproduce the New York section, both pictures and text, to remember the forgotten restaurants of 50 years ago.


Le Pavillion. Owned by Henri Soule, a great restauranteur, Le Pavillon rates as the finest French restaurant in America. In the copper dish are quenelles de brochet Pavillon, egg-shaped mousses of sieved pike poached and served with lobster sauce. On the serving platter at right is mousse de sole Pavillon which is served, as in foreground, half covered with lobster sauce and half covered with champagne sauce.


Brussels. Born of the 1939 - 1940 World's Fair where its managers operated the Belgian Pavilion restaurant, the Brussels has become one of the city's finest restaurants. Here Maître d'hôtel Leon Lievens lifts a chateaubriand en papillote from the paper in which it was cooked. On a side table are the asparagus with sauce mousseline of hollandaise and whipped cream, and pommes soufflées to go with it.


The Forum. A restaurant with an off-beat touch is The Forum of the Twelve Caesars. In foreground is alpine snow hare stewed in wine and served with maize and lingonberries. At left is an appetizer of clams, oysters, crab meat, lobster, shrimp. Ramekin holds pike mousse. Menu goes in for Latin (eggs Benedictus) and flaming foods — "fiddler crab lump a la Nero."


Voisin. Quiet and elegant, Voisin has for 45 years been famed for its desserts. Below is an assortment: a chocolate soufflé (top), served with vanilla sauce (in sauceboat), a gâteau St. Honore (at left), two chocolate boxes of spongecake and chocolate butter cream flanking a strawberry strip, eclairs, strawberry tarts and a vanilla pot de crème.


Just for fun I thought I'd include a Chicago restaurant, The Pump Room because, well, having this guy in your restaurant probably wouldn't go over real well today, but in 1958 it was the height of class. Also, flaming swords of food!

Pump Room. Famed for flaming swords that carry speared sustenance ranging from shashlik to Alaska crab, the Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel is one of America's most spectacular dining rooms. Bright-coated waiters march back and forth bearing the sizzling swords to the tables while (at night, not at lunch) the lights grow dim. In this picture, the array of hot swords from left carry shashlik, deep sea scallops, broiled lamb chops, whole chicken livers, milk-fed chickens, crab meat rolled in bacon, and filet mignon. Presiding is the coffee boy.

That's coffee MAN to you, buddy. Mr. Coffee Man.