Arrived at 11:30AM. A relaxed, friendly valet opened the cab door extending a warm almost mid-western welcome.
Inside to the right, a long narrow bar area. Two older, well-dressed women, one at the bar sipping a bloody mary and the other at a table sat waiting to be seated. At the door a Michigan four-some were explaining to the host why they should have the seating they requested. Had they not called from Michigan last week?
People, more than place or food, provides comfort and enchantment to a restaurant. The, host stationed at the door at a podium, seemed comfortable both in dress, short sleeve black shirt and tan slacks, and demeanor, noted my reservation then continued with the foursome. Sitting at the bar reading USA was very pleasant especially after the Michiganders were seated.
A second host, also casually dressed, noted this is my favorite table as he seated me. By meals end I would agree .The table was in the corner of a rectangular dining room and with back against the short wall it was the perfect spot to watch, as the room began to fill.
The Michigan group was up, on a raised platform across the room to my right and thankfully out of earshot and almost sight.
And the room began to fill with diners and the gentle hum of convivial conversation.
A well dressed elderly woman arrived, clearly someone who had been here before by the way the host asked how her trip had been, welcoming her back and sat her at a table for four to my right. Gray hair pulled back in a bun, linen jacket and tan shirt.
Next, a very young three-some: attractive blonde slightly heavy, in black sweater and white skirt sat across from long haired boy in button down stripped shirt and a shorthaired football player- looking boy wearing open collar shirt.
Then, the requisite balding, slightly pudgy, Ralph Lauren glasses, bow tied, jacketless with suspenders guy and his group.
Then three well-dressed older ladies joined the woman to my right.
In the center of the room, near my table was a round top table with multiple wine glasses in front of each setting. The table slowly filled with the Knights of Wine. They arrive each Friday. Each brings a bottle of wine to share with the others. Nine Knights would fill this table. Bearded, black, ruddy complexioned, a varied group, yet all corpulent having eaten many good meals in their time, all happy to be there, each carrying their treasure in a bottle.
And the pleasant sound of good cheer and chatter grew as the room filled with conversation, food and wine. No one guest speaking so loudly they could be heard above the rest. No cell phone cretins to be seen or heard. Friends, as they walked to their tables stopping, saying hello to friends. An opera of sound, food, and wine.
But, what about the food? Prix Fixe Menu of Warm salad of frisee with crispy duck liver in Satsuma vinaigrette was fine, Sauteeded gulf fish with potato dumpling caramelized onions with herbed poultry jus good without being great and chocolate cake, not overly dense, with cinnamon ice cream was a nice finish.[$22]. 2000 Montagny 1er Cru from Cote Chalonnaise Demi pitcher [$14] was a fair match for the first two courses, did not cover or overly clash, but went nicely with dessert.
The service young and happy. The Hosts middle aged and happy. The dinners [originally typed sinners], very young to very old, most happy.
As the room finally filled to the edges, as the final guests arrived filling every chair in the room, I could not help notice the Michiganders had left, their table was empty and once again all was well with the world. I thought.
But there, seated at the table in front of mine, the couple from hell. You know the ones. Zagat in her hands guide book in his. Not a clue about why people search out great restaurants. In their own mind gourmets. Believing, only if they have the right dish, the one the guidebook writer described, will they have the proper dinning experience they can then check off their list and tell their friends about it, upon their return. Already they begin to argue with the server. You know the types: older, once blonde, now gray haired shrew and Polo trowsered stripped shirted, bags under the eyes, pummeled husband.
My God, these idiots left when server was unable to provide all the dishes described in their book even though the server tried. They left offended. But at least, thankfully, they left.
And the room, which was for a moment off kilter, righted itself. Their departure stabilized the universe, at least this small part of the universe.
I hesitate to submit a review of this dinning experience for three reasons: unchecked verbosity, the influx of a ridiculous number of tourists, like myself, changing the important demographic of the clientele which is the essence of this most, for me, pleasant respite from life, and the seemingly less than glowing food critique. But I will leave it to the more sophisticated eater to read between the lines, to recognize whats been left out and to know what a gem this place is.
In short, easily one of the most pleasant lunch experiences I have had in years. This type of experience makes it easy to understand why one would move to this incredible restaurant city.
Many thanks New Orleans and especially Tom, Tea-4-Two and Kathryn who were kind enough to respond to my initial long-winded query.
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