Thursday, January 01, 2009

La Grenouille (Manhattan)

Grenouille are frogs legs which, in English, may not sound very appetizing to many people. It would be a sad mistake to make presumptions about this restaurant on that basis. I don't think I can put it better than Zagat did a few years ago when they said "'Regal, elegant and timeless' this East side (they are at 3 East 52nd St, between 5th and Maddison) French classic is one of the city's last 'grande dames' supplying 'superb' cuisine in 'beautiful' quarters with 'sublime fresh flower displays' (They even sell a book detailing 'Flowers of La Grenouille').......'gracious' black tie service and a chance to experience 'a treasured remnant of old NY' conspire to make the $87 (now $95) prix fixe dinner feel like a bargain." At that time they got 27 out of 30 for food, decor and service.
Two years later it all remains true. We started with a glass of Louis Roderer champagne ($22) followed by a bottle of NV Veuve Cliquot ($130). The chef sent around a plate of cheese sticks and small gougeres followed by a taster of chestnut puree.

For Premier Plat I had Beggars purse of poached truffled egg ($32)

a delicately prepared dish with a surround of mushrooms however there was no evidence of truffles either by taste texture or sight. My partner had quenelles of pike with American caviar ($23)

the finest that she has EVER eaten. The accompanying white rice was a little bland but the sauce perfect. Our friends had potato blini with salmon tartare and American caviar

which were reported as excellent, as was Le Choix des Hors d'Oeuvres.

For mains I could not go past the signature dish - frogs legs sauteed Provencale ($57 or $15 supplement with the prix fixe)

which didn't look like much but was well spiced, tender and with a delicate taste, much finer than chicken, to which it is often compared. My partner had sea bass with sage and butternut squash ($47).

Despite assurances that it would be lightly cooked it was thoroughly cooked and promptly replaced with a fillet prepared as requested, and a complimentary glass of champagne! The puree was a perfect match to the fish - a great combination. The filet minion

was another excellent dish. I had the cheese selection for dessert ($25) four modest pieces - goat, blue, and two which I could not identify by either the waiters diction or the cheeses themselves. Served with walnuts, a lovely apricot puree and fingers of toasted fruit bread they were a little too cold and would have been better a room temperature. The others had the Grand Marnier souffle ($8.75 supplement on the prix fixe).

Almost 8 inches high and 6 across they were magnificent. The service was exemplary, the setting lovely although the tables were rather close. The noise level was not excessive at any time - they have a sign saying cell phones, laptops and uncontrolled children are not permitted in the dining room! In all it was quite expensive (US$180 per person with tips and tax), a very good meal enhanced by the setting and the most congenial company.

Score 18/20

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