I went there yesterday with my college sophomore son and my octogenarian Dad, who has fond memories of eating there often in the 60s, but had not been back in decades. All three generations loved it! Is there a more beautiful place to eat in NYC than that room bedecked with daffodils and flowering branches, particularly on a sunny, early spring day? Service is extremely correct, but also very friendly - with the bartender, busboy, waiter, and captain each performing his appointed role superbly; I had no idea that the model of the professional French waitstaff I remember from Lutece 25 years ago still existed in NYC. Monsieur Masson could not have been more charming with my father - and it was a lovely gesture on his part to offer us afterlunch digestif or champagne...which I regret today having taken him up on - but how many restaurants in NYC have delicious vielle prune? The restaurant was full and buzzing, but I thought that the tables were adequately spaced; we had a very nice corner banquette in the back room.
And the food! I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was: between us we thad the oft recommended quenelles and dover sole - excellent as already reported. And the caramel souffle definitely lived up to the raves it has received here in the past. We also loved the halibut with rutabaga choucroute, the sweetbreads, the mushroom risotto, and the oeufs a la neige. Not a single disappointment. And though many may disagree, I actually thought it was a relief not to be presented with a barrage of amuses gueules (a la Eleven Madison, Jean Georges, del Posto) before the appetizer, and chocolates, macaroons, marshmallows etc after dessert (though the complementary cookies were superb!) Had it not been for the vielle prune (and the icy Hendricks martini) I would have felt much better than I do after one of the multicourse extravaganzas...
So if you wish to briefly travel back in time to the world which Joseph Wechsberg so lovingly describes in his books, get thee to Grenouille! The food is superb, much better than it needs to be, the price is very fair - particularly at lunch ($52 for 3 courses), and the experience is unique.
One question - has anyone eaten the $29 prix fixe lunch upstairs? I looked at the room, which is beguiling, and would love to try it one day...
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023
3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022