I have friends that I always get together with for a great brunch when they're visiting from London. We've had wonderful brunches in the past at Mesa Grill and Artisanal.
I selected Seppi's this time and was very excited to try their chocolate brunch. There are several references to it on the Chowhound boards, but no reviews, so I thought I'd post about my experience.
Seppi's sounds like an Italian place but is a French bistro off the main entrance of the Parker Meredien Hotel on 56th St (also home to Norma's and Burger Joint). It's done up in new decor to look old, with pressed tin ceiling and walls, and an eclectic selection of photos, prints, and mirrors on the wall. For brunch (and possibly whenever they're not busy) they draw a large curtain in front of most of the dining room which gives the rest of the space -- the banquette across from the bar and a few tables a much more intimate feel.
$24 prix fixe gets you a drink, coffee or hot chocolate, a choice of five plated entrees, and as "many trips to the chocolate buffet as you'd like." As some of our party had theatre tickets to a 2:00 matinee, we had an early reservation and found that the restaurant couldn't serve us liquor until noon (now I know why the most popular time for brunch is later), but they did have a special "eye opener" cocktail made from various juices, including ginger, which those who ordered it liked. After noon I ordered the "chocolate mimosa" which was nothing more than a mimosa with some chocolate shavings sprinkled on top, which did nothing for the mimosa or the chocolate. Unfortunately, the bar menu doesn't have any chocolate martinis or other drinks made with a chocolate liquer. They do, however, also offer Jacques Torres' hot chocolates for a $4 supplemental.
The entrees included smoked salmon with brown bread (serviceable), poached eggs and bacon perched atop a sweet potato "hash" with a salad with a truffled vinagrette, a poorly reconceived chicken mole' (a fried breaded cutlet with a gringofied mole' undersauce), and probably the best choice, a very good steak au poive with a fried egg and frites and a watercress salad.
The real disappointment was the chocolate buffet, which consisted of eight different chocolate desserts and confections -- unfortunately, they were all far too similar, most of them dense chocolate mousse pies, one dark chocolate, one with espresso, one with peanut butter, one garnished with walnuts, a dense chocolate and fruit terrine, chocolate mousses and cremes baked or set in individual spoons, a chocolate tart, even a bowl of chocolate icing, and another bowl that our waiter said was white chocolate mousse but tasted to us liked whipped cream, and whatever it was, it had curdled. There were also some generic/commercial molded chocolate truffles scattered about. It was telling that probably the best dessert was the plate of fresh strawberries dipped in the chocolate fondue. I was hoping for more baked good and pastries, or at least more variety in offerings.
The service was excellent when we arrived and the place was near empty, less so later when they got busy. The bill came to $35 each for brunch, a couple bottles of mineral water for the table, and tax and tip.
You could do much better yourself by putting together your own chocolate brunch, even with just a single visit to City Bakery.
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