A West Side Breather
By Robert Beck
I have minimum requirements when it comes to restaurants. The place where I eat must be staffed by people who care about customers and take pride in making good-tasting food. It has to be quiet enough to write if I’m alone or hold a conversation if I’m not, and I don’t eat where there is a television.
I’m fine with a bowl of ramen at Zurutto or eating a couple of Gray’s hot dogs in Verdi Park. A Jamon Beurre at Boulud Epicure is as satisfying as an everything bagel with lox-spread from Bagel Talk. (However, if forced to choose, it would be Boulud).
Now and then, we go someplace nice, and there are a few places we reserve for special occasions. New to that list is the Grand Tier at the Met.
You have to be impressed by the Grand Tier’s location. One can have dinner and then walk across the room to their seat for a performance. (You are not required to go to the opera to eat at the restaurant, just sayin’.) The environment is exceptional. It’s a vast space. Like the music, it soars. I don’t know how high the ceiling is, but it’s way up there—I’m going to guess 75 feet. I ate under one of the 36-foot-tall Chagall murals. The view out the glass front across the courtyard and fountain flanked by the two other theaters, to Dante Park at Broadway and Amsterdam, gives a sense of space and expansion enough to make you forget anything else in your life for a while.
I don’t have the credentials to review a restaurant or its menu, but this was an extraordinary meal. The service and setting were superb. I started with bison carpaccio which melted in my mouth. It was topped with a scraped floret of Tete de Moine. Did you know you can cure egg yolks? (It’s not complicated. Look it up online and crush your next dinner party.)
My main was Atlantic char over watercress risotto, with sugar peas and a brown butter au jus. All the elements in both courses were ripe with distinct flavors that stayed first-bite-fresh throughout the meal. Truly great-tasting food.
It was one of those early Spring evenings that define the word sublime. We walked our friends through Central Park toward their hotel as the city slid into darkness. The trees and gardens were in early bloom, the lawns filled with people lying on blankets or just stretched out on the grass, refusing to give up the day. Many had candles, which added a solemnity to our stroll. It smelled so fresh.
To contact Robert Beck or see more of his work, visit robertbeck.net
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