Sant Ambroeus and More
I’m trying to work my way through the backlog of topics from our just-completed trip to New York. Let me give a rundown of some of the restaurants where we ate.
We arrived early Saturday morning. I was hoping to eat at Sant Ambroeus that evening, but we dropped in on our way up to visit my parents before noon and learned that they’re first opening would be at 10:30 PM. A little late. Moreover, thanks to the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, displaced or powerless Manhattanites would be seeking dinner all over, so reservations would be hard to come by.
1. Orsay. Thanks to the assistance of our concierge, and at his recommendation, we were able to get a table at Orsay, a casual French bistro on Lexington, not far from the hotel. It was not too crowded when we walked in, but packed within minutes. (I would link to it, but the site isn’t working now.) The four of us were squeezed up against nearby tables as well as the crowd squeezing through the front door, with a wicked chill coming through when both sets of doors were held open. But we had a table, and food. Speaking of which, what the heck did I eat? I have no idea. I think I shared Gail’s profiteroles for dessert. Maybe soup to start. Oh, the hanger streak with frites. Gail had it too. And we shared a side order of grilled asparagus. I chose the béarnaise sauce. Gail went with the bordelaise sauce. Pretty tasty.
2. Sant Ambroeus. Sunday we were able to get a table at Sant Ambroeus. My affection for the place may be larger than it merits, but I love it nonetheless. One passes through a front area that is part coffee shop, part bakery, part gelato store. Or, now that I see their self-description, I should say restaurant, catering, gelateria, pasticceria, confetteria. In the rear is the restaurant, a small, elegant space with a large waitstaff. Check out the dinner menu here.
Among the primi, the tagliatelle alla bolognese was awfully tempting, but I was determined to go milanese style, so I chose the risotto alla milanese, or classic saffron milanese risotto, hoping Gail would let me try her tagliatelle. Likewise, the evening’s lamb chop special sounded spectacular, and our waiter was pushing it hard, Gail chose it. But I stuck with the costoletto alla milanese, or breaded veal chop milanese, pictured above, as did my sister and brother-in-law. It came with mashed potato, mixed vegetable, and on a side plate, arugula.
I couldn’t have been happier. I could have this meal every day. Well, I might have my fill of the risotto after the second day and switch to the superb tagliatelle from then on. But I’m capable of eating veal or chicken milanese daily, as I demonstrated when we were in Italy three years ago this very week.
For dessert, they bring a tray to the table with all their items of the day. I think Gail chose some sort of mousse concoction, which I tasted.
3. E.A.T. Monday evening, Gail and I were on our own. We headed up Madison to a perennial favorite, Eli Zabar’s E.A.T. We’ve eaten there many times, and eaten E.A.T. takeout even more often. Usually it’s crowded. Monday we had the place nearly to ourselves. People trickled in over the hour and a half that we were there, but it was peaceful to the end.
I’m not too original. I had the meat loaf with fresh tomato sauce. When it came, I realized it’s exactly what I ordered the last time we had dinner there. It’s a whole meatloaf in miniature rather than slices of a large meatloaf, complete with its own interior egg. This was after starting with a bowl of potato leek soup. Tempted though we always are to share an order of potato pancakes, we resisted this time. For dessert we each had one of their shortbread heart cookies. A simple meal, and perfect. Plus relaxing.
4. Cafe Boulud. This is the hotel restaurant. We had breakfast there Saturday morning after our overnight flight from Seattle, going down with my sister and brother-in-law after first going up to visit them in their room on arrival. At the other end, the four of us had lunch there Tuesday just before Gail and I headed to JFK for our flight home.
Cafe Boulud is part of the Daniel Boulud empire. Their lunch menu is simple. There’s a prix fixe selection on the left, a few selections in each of four categories on the right. You can see the menu online (no direct link), where you’ll find that the categories are French classics and country cooking, fall flavors, inspired by the farmer’s market, and world cuisine. I went with the prix fixe menu, as did my sister and brother-in-law. One of the two appetizer options was a frisée salad, which is what I selected. For the main dish, I chose the chestnut ravioli with spaghetti squash. Not the sort of thing I would ordinarily select, but it did sound interesting. The salad was superb. The ravioli was … interesting. Very rich. I enjoyed trying it. Next time I might go for the pan seared duck breast on the fall flavors menu, with Minnesota wild rice, brussels sprouts, apple cider, and sauce albufera.
Dessert. Let’s see. There were two choices on the prix fixe menu. One was some leche cake thing. The other was a chocolate mousse with passion fruit, accompanied by passion fruit sorbet. Gail and I split that. Good.