As a San Francisco Chowhound stuck alone in midtown New York for an evening, I decided to fling caution to the wind and see what kind of really expensive and highly rated NYC restaurant I could walk into and get served. I called Tablas and they indicated they had all kinds of options for single diners, "when was I coming?" This would have taken a cab ride. Then I called La Cote Basque because it was only a block away from the Hilton. Sure, come on by, they said.
At 6:15 there was only one table occupied and they gave me my choice of several places to sit. I started studying the menu and the wine list and was certainly impressed by the prices. The menu listed a three-course Prix Fixe meal for $70. I asked if there was a chef's tasting menu and the waiter said yes, and went back to the kitchen to get details. He reappeared and described five courses, declaring the fee would be $80. This seemed like a good way to kill a few hours, so I told him to go ahead.
At the same time, I ordered a glass of Champagne ($15) to go with the Amuse Bouche that had been brought out as soon as I sat down. I also ordered a 1/2 bottle of Red Burgundy Vincent Giradin 1999 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru "Les Cas" for $55.
The meal proceeded as follows:
Amuse bouche: Baked salmon & trout pate with a reduced fruit jam. Served warm with a pleasing carmelized crust. Good.
1st course: a Lobster / Chanterelle casserole in a tomato/roasted red pepper butter sauce. It was served in a sterling silver casserole about three inches in diameter. The lobster was a bit tough, but the sauce was flawlessly executed. Very Good.
2nd course: fois gras with a jellied pear-brandy consomme, pineapple chutney & endive salad w/toast points. Excellent.
3rd course: Sauteed soft shell crab on a bed of spinach served with a corn/black bean/apple relish. Good.
4th course: Calvados sorbet w/raspberry garnish. Good
5th course: saddle and chop of lamb a jus; asparagus and chevre procuitto-wrapped log; pureed potatos. Very good.
1. Lemon creme fraiche mousse cake with raspberry creme anglis & blueberries. Very good.
2. Molten hot chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream. Good. (Everyone serves molten chocolate cake. You can't get away from them!)
3. a plate of petite fours. Fair. (only sampled one or two).
4 My choice of coffee, cappuccino, or espresso (I took the espresso in hopes of being able to walk out on my own).
This was a tremendous amount of food. I can only imagine how many calories I ate, and I assure you that with thoughts of Mr. Creosote from "The Meaning of Life" in the back of my mind, I didn't finish the desserts.
The service was professional the staff friendly (I noted that the wine list had a 1949 Guraud Larose, and was told that they were all wondering if it was still drinkable -- the consensus was: probably not) and the entire experience was a good one. Although I set a new personal $$ record for a single meal, I don't think it was the best meal I have ever had. It was very good, but not excellent.
It did eat up (!) about two and one-half hours (the restaurant had filled up by the time I left) and I took a walk around the city for a bit which ate up another hour. I will be going back to San Francisco on Friday and will be eating at the French Laundry in Yountville on Saturday. That should be interesting.
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