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Paris by way of the Upper Eastside: dinner at Orsay

  • Restaurant  Orsay
  • Cuisine  French
  • Location  1057 Lexington Avenue (at 75th Street), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-517-6400
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  spacious, transporting, sophisticated
  • Attire  business casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, date night, outdoor dining, private events
  • Price  moderate to expensive

Photo: NY Magazine"If it's good enough for 'The Countess,' then it's good enough for me."  I'm only kidding but, as a RHoNY devotee, I can vividly recall when, in one of the first episodes of this past season, Countess Luann, her boyfriend, Jacques, Sonja, and her boyfriend all dined together at Orsay.  And, as many of you know, I'm a die-hard Francophile.  So, what do you get when you blend my passion for all-things-French with my religion, pop culture?  The need to experience Orsay for myself, ASAP!

I met Jackie and Carlotta inside, at the restaurant's lengthy pewter-topped bar, shortly before 6pm.  And, while they chose to sip on warm cappuccino's, I ordered a glass of Bordeaux.     

Photo courtesy of OrsayPhoto courtesy of OrsayWith 1/4 of the wine remaining in my glass, the three of us decided to be seated for dinner.  It was at this time that I was able to sit back, observe, and take-in the incredible interior beauty and detail that was surrounding me.  The first thing I noticed was the intricately-tiled, scallop patterned mosaic flooring, throughout.  Mahogany-wood walls, elaborate crown molding and arches, oversized antique-paned mirrors, Chantilly lace curtains, grand floral arrangements, and a mysterious marble staircase (leading to...the restrooms and an events space!) was a banquet in and of itself -  a feast for the eyes, in every sense of the phrase.

Photo courtesy of Orsay: note the flooring!!

Dinner was christened with a wedge of moist and crusty sourdough and spreadable butter.  Attentive servers routinely refilled low/empty bread plates throughout the course of the meal.

Since Carlotta had to leave early (our girl had a date later that night), the three of us proceeded to order appetizers rather quickly after being seated.  For Jackie, it was the Baked Artichoke Gratine, with was accompanied by seasonal greens.  Carlotta went with the Homemade Ravioli, which was stuffed with fava beans and ricotta.  And I could not decide between the Burgundy Escargot and the Watermelon & Feta Salad, so I ordered them both!  "Don't worry," the girls both said, "we'll help you (eat)."     

While most French restaurants air on the side of "stingy" with escargot, Orsay generously serves twelve plump pieces per order.  Although they were slightly overcooked, I couldn't help but eat every last meaty morsel or, shall I say, eleven of the twelve snails.  Since Jackie had never before sampled this delicacy, I insisted that tonight be the night.  "They have a similar flavor to mushrooms, only the texture is more dense." I explained.  "Plus, how bad could anything taste dredged in garlic, parsley, butter, and bread crumbs?" 

Unfortunately for Jackie, the "dredging" couldn't disguise the fact that she was, in fact, eating a snail/slug.  Secretly, I was thrilled with her displeasure because I didn't have to share another piece!    

I was excited to see Watermelon & Feta Salad on the menu, as I plan to serve a similar rendition next week at "wine club."  Served atop a bed of spicy arugula greens, Nicoise olives, and bite-sized watermelon cubes were generous, interchanging slices of sweet, juicy 'melon and salty feta cheese.  The salad was finished with drizzled feta dressing. 

While I loved the contrasting flavors (sweet watermelon, salty feta, spicy arugula, sour olives), I found the abundance of feta cheese to be an overabundance.  Had each "slice" been halved or, better yet, crumbled, I don't think its pungency would have been so overwhelming.  After all, we're not talking about a caprese salad (mozzarella-based), here.  Feta is sharp, salty, and strong - a little goes a long way.  

It was at this point in the meal when Carlotta announced that she needed to head on to her date.  After we wished her luck and bid her adieu, Jackie and I decided that, instead of each ordering our own, we'd split an entree: the Veal Blanquette.

The kitchen was kind enough, with us even having to ask, to split our entree prior to service.  Each of us was presented with a cast-iron "crock pot" containing slowly-braised veal, pearl onions, and carrots enveloped by a creamy butter sauce, gently kissed with lemon essence.  A plate of sticky jasmine rice was served alongside.

The rice and sauce, alone, reminded me of my favorite childhood dish, "chicken a-la-king."  The perfectly-cooked veal, however, added an elevated level of sophistication to a rather humble one-pot-meal that I would have otherwise pictured being paired with chicken.  Perhaps it's the fact that I typically shy away from ordering this "taboo" meat option but, on those occasions when I do, I'm always reminded of its incredibly moist and tender texture.  This representation was one of the best veal entrees that I've had to date.

For dessert, Jackie and I decided to split a plate of homemade macarons and the Apple Tarte Tatin.

Served on the cool side, these delightful raspberry-shelled macarons were filled with a dark-chocolate creme center.

Perched atop a thin puff pastry disk were buttery, juicy, caramelized apples that had been crowned with a dollop of cool creme fraiche.  Encircling the pastry was the most intense syrup, rich in honey flavor, that perfectly caught each apple after it tumbled down to the plate post fork-cut.  I almost asked for a side serving of this syrup so that I could dip each and every bite of my half of the tarte in to its sweet deliciousness!    

To conclude: When you walk in to Orsay, you're immediately transported to Paris - for the duration of your glass of wine or meal.  And speaking of wine, there are plenty of options "by the glass" at relatively reasonable prices - a handful for under $10!  I was thrilled to learn that, just up the staircase, Orsay has a gorgeous windowed space for private events: seating for 70 and standing room for 120.  And, trust me, not many people even know that it exists!

I hope to return to Orsay for brunch al-fresco.  I can only imagine how lovely it is in the fall!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle   

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Reader Comments (2)

YUM. I agree on the feta - too much!

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Skinny Pig

Mmm. I love Orsay. Their tuna tartare is one of my favorites!

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJGIWC

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