Saturday, January 26, 2008

Postcards from New York 2: Brasserie 8 1/2


First I have to get this out of the way: Sunday in the Park with George was simply amazing. I have never seen anything on opening night before, especially for just $35. Computers are a big part of the show - it is technologically fabulous. All the scenery and even An Afternoon on the Island of la Grand Jatte, on which the musical is based, change and appear and reappear to fit the action. Everything else was wonderful about it, too. Get up to NY and see it if you can before it closes in April (limited engagement). It's playing at Studio 54.

Before that I headed to Brasserie 8 1/2. This was the closest restaurant that had a New York Restaurant Week special that looked interesting to me. When I got there, braving the ridiculous cold, I immediately felt underdressed (unlike the super-casual Oya in Washington). It was big and round and shiny and a mix of off-white and dark orange, a beautiful and simple design.

I thought I was running late, but apparently I wasn't. And when I got down the long spirally staircase (I did take photos - they're not good. I'll upload them later) I noticed I wasn't the only casually dressed customer. In fact, I looked pretty formal compared to some folks. They were almost ready to seat people for dinner, so I got a drink. I had not a clue what to get; this guy with a strong local accent recommended his drink. I'm not sure what it was, maybe vodka with some cranberry in it. I do know that, at first anyway, it was strong. And then the bartender said in her perky way: "That will be fourteen dollars." After I popped my buggy eyes back in my head, I paid for it. $14! That will get your four "recession specials" at Gray's Papaya (that is, eight hot dogs and 56 ounces of the drink of your choice).

Well there goes any chance of a cheap Restaurant Week meal. At least I didn't order anything else besides dinner, which was $35 (it's a little more up here):

  • The first of three courses was a simple, strong lobster consommé, with lobster-scallion dumplings. Both were tasty, but the consommé was even better with this thick potato bisque in one of those small, tall shot glasses that they like like to serve "tasting menu" soup in on Top Chef. They brougnt it out just before the soup, and for a minute I thought this was the soup. I was a little confused why they brought me such a large soup spoon - what, pour the soup into it? The potato tasted best when you poured it into the consommé.

  • For the second course, I got this herb crusted skate. Between the two layers of fish was a hearty layer of orange and green lentils, and a salsa on the side of pineapple, caper and brown butter. Plus, I think there were little hoisin sauce dots on the opposite side. Again, everything was scrumptious, although the skate directly underneath the lentils had an oddly mushy texture - not raw, not flaky, not overcooked, just mushy. It didn't really detract from the dish, but it was strange.

  • The final course was a filling gingerbread pudding. I imagined a mousse of some sort and failed to realize this would actually be a gingerbread bread pudding (gingerbread, get it?). Again, it was a wonderful and pretty dish, with this zig-zaggedy, thin gingerbread cookie in front of the pudding, zig-zags of caramel on the plate and over the pudding, There was a small brick of something on top. I'm not sure what it was exactly, but it was buttery and almost like a very subtle butterscotch pudding. Plus, there were raisins and small chunks of pineapple all through it. A satisfying end to my meal.
With tax and tip I paid about $45. I paid for that pricey cocktail earlier so it wasn't included in my bill. It was a charming though big restaurant. I'd go back if there weren't so many restaurants in New York, and if I had the money to come up here more often.

The sleek and beautiful Brasserie 8 1/2 cocktail lounge, taken from right next door at my table in the dining area


joker said...

I like your blog. I think it is cool... the contents are interesting in my opinion. I'll come back for more, keep it up!

Do drop by my blog and have a look.

Freak Magnet said...

Another plea? Do you know of any places that serve Kobe beef steak besides Nasu Blanca?

I'm totally reading your blog for good places to go.

roopa said...

I think you go to NY more often than I do!!!

I've never been to Brasserie 8 1/2 or Gray's Papaya...probably fairly obvious why I haven't been :)

While you're there, go to Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches on East 2nd St right off Ave A. They make the best banh mi - I haven't eaten their classic but everyone I know who has eaten it has totally loved it.

John said...

Joker: Thanks! I'll check it out.

FM: Hmmm, Kobe beef? I really don't have any advice for you there.

Roopa: I try to get up there once in a while when there's something on Broadway I want to see. Since it costs so much, this will sadly be my last trip for a while. MAYBE not if I find a sweet deal on "Young Frankenstein" tickets.