By Sue Troiani Piccolo
Step into a Cosmopolitan feel and enjoy some classic French food with a twist from Executive Chef Luc Dimnet.
The Brasserie, located at 100 E 53rd street in Manhattan, has style and contemporary grace. Get their earlier, so you can stop by the bar and let Bridget or Tim suggest a cool and refreshing cocktail before you sit down and enjoy your meal from one of several menus, Prix Fixe, summer or their Classic menu. I opted for the L.Elephant Rosé (St. Germain, Cranberry, Rosé Cotes de Provence) before I sat down for our meal.
We started with appetizers. I picked from the prix-fixe menu. Beginning with a Frisée aux Lardons, (Roquefort cheese, apple bacon and croutons) tossed with delicious Dijon vinaigrette. My companions went for the summer menu and started with Lobster Bisque. Of course, I had to see what they were raving about, so I tried some of theirs, light and airy bisque with nice-size pieces of lobster. I had to have a second spoonful in an attempt to figure out what the unique and delicate flavor was that savored our palate. We broke down and asked our most knowledgeable senior-waiter Peter, who has been with the Brasserie for 13 1/2 years. “What is the twist that is salivating our tongues?” I asked. “Green apples!” he answered smiling. Yes, that’s right, you read it here, he said “green apples” in the lobster bisque. Absolutely, a unique and rousing idea.
As we ate our appetizers, much to our surprise, Peter came out with some tasters Souse Chef Jerome had sent out to us: Crab Cake with a Lemon Mousse, Escargot with Fava Beans, summer squash, green beans, peas and carrots in a get-more-of-their-French-bread-to-dip-in sauce (chicken stock, butter, garlic and I’m sure a secret ingredient that they wouldn’t reveal) and a Mushroom Risotto done to perfection. If you asked me for my favorite, I could not choose just one. Each appetizer had uniqueness all of its own and each as delicious as the one before.
As we sat and talked, we learned a little about the history of the Brasserie from Peter. Actually, it gave us a breather from all the food we tasted. So I’m passing this on to you. The Bras started in 1959 and was opened 24/7. It was frequented by theater goers and stars. Later on, it was the premiere restaurant for Studio 54; again, everyone came to this after hour’s eatery. In 1995 the place was devastated by a fire and closed until 2000 when Diller, Scofidio and Renfro reopened and redesigned into that Cosmo feel with the Patina group. Kudos to them, for reopening the iconic restaurant where the 1st part of the season finale of “Sex in the City” was filmed. No wonder they picked there to film: the décor and ambiance fit like a glove.
While trying to distract our waiter by asking questions, he soon realized what we were on to. A breather? “Oh, no, not here” he must have been thinking. He left and came back with our entrees. My Coq au Vin and their Lobster Thermidor. Oh my! Where was I going to put this food? You can’t insult the French Chef; it’s like eating at momma’s house in an Italian family. Do I wrap it up and call it a night? Do I hide it in my pocketbook and say I ate it all? Nope! The aroma just drew me in. “Just one small bite”, I thought to myself, until our waiter came back and said “How is everything?” I looked down at my plate: empty! I peered up at Peter and told him it was delicious, as I tried to hide the fact that I ate it all. He took our plates graciously and said nothing about the fact we ate everything. Trained very well, I must say. “Never let the customer feel like they are gluttons”. He excused himself and said he would “be back in a moment”, and, true to his word, in a moment he was at our table with a glass for each of us, a slightly sweet dessert wine from the Cadillac region of France. “Well, this is the best dessert you can have”, I said to my companions, being so full, until our waiter arrived with several platters of desserts.
Pastry Chef Kenneth Larsen sent out an array of desserts. I thought I couldn’t possibly take one more bite. Wrong! What do they always say? “There is always room for dessert”. I had to taste the home-made Maple ice-cream and the Pecan Praline, an exceptionally creamy, not overly-sweet ice-cream. On another plate was the Rhubarb Sorbet with a delicate panna cotta and diced rhubarb laid artistically on the plate. Thinking it couldn’t get any better, lying next to me was the chocolate-filled Beignets with a dipping sauce of dark chocolate. “Hmmm… Maybe I’ll have just one. I mean, I am here on business and pleasure…” After taking a bite, I realized that, for fried-stuff with dark chocolate, they weren’t greasy; they were light, airy and lick-your-fingers delectable. Across from them was the Warm Apple Tart Tatin, slightly tangy and complemented with the Muscavado ice cream. But, staring directly at me was the Caramelized Chevre Cake; honey roasted pear, and candied pecans. Well, well… I just couldn’t take another bite; I did and there was my magic moment: the best cheese cake I ever ate. Sorry, Grandma! Made of 30% goat cheese, this cake was to die for. Rich, yet light, an absolute must-have-again.
I have to say, the personalities and experience of the staff, from the hostess and GM Jerome Oliveri to the bartender Bridget and our waiter Peter makes me want to go back, not just for the magnificent food, but for the overall experience of a friendly, great-food NY Cosmo feel. I recommend the Brasserie on E 53rd in NYC anytime. Tell them Sue sent you.