Restaurant: The Leopard at des Artistes
- Cuisine: Italian
- Pricing: $$$
- What's delicious: Brunch. In its entirety.
- Perfect for: Ladies who brunch - prix fixe menu/pre-theater - where to take the parents - special occasions
In Manhattan, zip codes are everything...Unless, of course, you're one of the lucky Upper East/West Side residents worthy enough of claiming a "One East/West...Street" home address. For those of you who aren't familiar, the "One" designates a building's proximity to Central Park (read: a "One" means virtually *ON* the Park). Case in point: The Hotel des Artistes, a grand apartment building and home to tony Italian restaurant, The Leopard at des Artistes, located at, you guessed it, "ONE W. 67th Street."
Upon entering the restaurant from the picturesque tree-lined sidewalk, I immediately "buttoned up," if you will: I adjusted my shirt collar, ran my hands along the top of my hair to calm any fly-aways, and corrected my posture from slightly slouched to upright. Not that the restaurant was overly-stuffy or "black tie" fancy, but this has traditionally been my knee-jerk reaction upon finding myself in more, shall we say, high-end locations/venues. Kind of like when I used to visit my aunt and uncle at their fabulous apartment (filled with museum-worthy art and an incredible amount of "breakables") located just across the Park from the restaurant. To make a long story short, I wanted to look the part and be on my best "grown up" behavior for my brunch at The Leopard.
"Because of the many ateliers and studios built especially for artists and musicians on West 67th Street, this particular block was often referred to as 'Artists Row.' Designed by the architect, George Mort Pollard, the Hotel des Artistes has been home to many of the famed and illustrious, including Noel Coward, Isadora Duncan, writer Fannie Hurst, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, Alexander Woollcott, and Norman Rockwell." In an ode to its colorful history, the restaurant's walls are adorned with "fanciful murals of frolicking nudes painted by Howard Chandler Christy, an early resident" of the building.
Moments after I was seated and two-sips in to my coffee, my girlfriend, Elena, arrived to join me for brunch. In an ode to sample as many starters and entrees as possible, we decided to split a handful of dishes.
To begin (and in a strategic effort to soak up the alcohol from the previous evening's shenanigans), we selected the bakery basket filled with homemade muffins, scones, Danish, and coffee cake. House-made jam and sweet butter were served alongside as accompaniments. While each morsel was every bit soft and delicious, the scones were particularly transcendent. I wonder if they could be ordered on their own?
Because brunch shouldn't be all eggs and waffles, Elena and I chose to delve in to the meal with two salads.
As if our sweet bread basket didn't contain enough carbs (god help me, I sound so "LA!"), we also received a savory version - accompanied by olive oil - in anticipation of and to pair with our saltier fare.
Pollo al Limone
The Pollo al Limone (loosely translated to "lemon chicken") salad featured hand-pulled, roasted free-range chicken breast that was served atop a green bouquet of arugula and frisee leaves, thick tendrils of fragrant fennel, celery, Castelvetrano olives, and finished with a tangy lemon dressing.
Taking center stage on the plate, a fluffy white cloud of burrata (mozzarella cheese with a creamy, molten-like center) could have been a doppelganger to the clusters that form just beyond your airplane window at 30k feet. As if that wasn't righteous enough on its own, the cheese was lightly drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by chunks of tomato and sprigs of fragrant basil. What a treat!
For our main course, Elena and I chose one pasta dish plus a familiar breakfast entree.
Spaghetti "all carbonara"
Pungent Pecorino Romano (cheese), egg yolk, and black pepper came together to create a creamy trinity in which al-dente spaghetti noodles were tossed, coated, and then served in an artful tangle. Salty guanciale (strips of thick-cut Italian bacon) crowned the pasta.
Des Artistes Eggs Benedict
Chef Brogioni "Italianized" this traditionally American brunch entree by substituting San Daniele prosciutto for overly-processed Canadian bacon and serving it atop a buttery, toasted slice of country bread. The salty ham ribbons were crowned with a perfectly-poached egg and topped with a dollop of Hollandaise. Herbed breakfast potatoes (...Were they twice or thrice fried?) were crunchy and well-oiled/salted, revealing a fluffy-soft interior.
What - you think we'd leave without sampling at least one dessert? Never...
Nutella Chocolate Mousse
Plated atop a bed of hazelnut "crunch" that acted as a pseudo crust, the nutty Nutella-hinted chocolate mousse revealed a refreshingly-dense texture with a flavor subtly reminiscent of a dark chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Finished with a gooey layer of ganache icing and a scoop of banana gelato, this was one of our favorite dishes - and presentations - of the meal.
As if the meal weren't delicious enough, the service was also top-notch; two key components that go hand in hand in making any restaurant experience that much more memorable.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle