Written by Hulda Lawrence
There is new brasserie in town at 772 Ninth Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, aptly named Brasserie 52 (212) 586-5055. It is very French with its full grown palm tree in the center of the restaurant. One steps away from the noise and bustle of Ninth Avenue to an oasis of calm within.
The menu is authentic French with escargots, moules, boeuf Bourguinon as well as other enticing dishes. We began with a CEO Martini of Chopin Vodka, chilled with three olives served up for my companion and a Cosmopolitan of Smirnoff Citrus Vodka, triple sec and a splash of cranberry juice for me. As we sipped and relaxed we chatted with Ciro Colontonio who, as owner-executive chef, has opened and run a number of successful places in Manhattan like Metisse and Le Refuge. He spoke of his pride in presenting the best of French food in a modern setting.
There is a daily lunch special for $10 which might be Croque Monsieur, Brasserie 52 Hamburger with Fries, Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, Three Cheese Omelette or a Club Sandwich. With the special, diners receive a free soda or coffee. The plat du jour is different each day from Lobster Ravioli, Cassoulet, Bouillabaisse on Friday, and Shrimp Provencal on Saturday. These plats are $14 to $18.
We began with tried and true French delights: Moules Marinieres and Escargots. I complimented chef Agustin Sanchez for the delicious wine, shallot and pepper sauce which covered the moules. The escargots were excellent. With these promising appetizers we decided to have more substantial entrees. My choice was Cote de Porc. This chop came with wild mushrooms ragout, savory cabbage and potato cake in Madeira au jus at $14. My companion's Foie Veau aux Fines Herbes was a fine sautéed calf's liver with gratin dauphinois at $15. Other entrees include Meat Loaf Maison, Coq au Vin, Filet Mignon, Quiche de Jour, Salade de Poulet and Canard aux Fruits Frais. Entrée prices are $11 to $26 for the Filet.
There also are choices from the grill such as Steak Frites, Steak aux Poivres, Cotes de Agneau, Paillard de Poulet and Crevetes Parisien. $10 to $23 for the Lamb Chops.
There is a goodly list of wines by the glass. We had Sancerre and Shiraz at $8 each. Wines are from $7 to $9 with champagne from $12.
For those who prefer lighter lunches there are salads and, of course, French Onion Soup au Gratin. Salads include those done with goat cheese, beets, endive and spinach, $5 to $7. Seafood lovers will enjoy Gateau de Crabe, done with pernod vinaigrette and fennel, Thon Jaune, coriander and pepper Seared Yellow Fin Tuna; Mediterranean aux Creventes Couscous, sauteed Shrimp with couscous, spinach and carrot-curry broth; and Coquilles Saint Jacques-au Safran. The "Maree" menu is $15 to $19.
Our desserts were a fine Tiramisu and Napoleon which we topped off with Irish Coffee. Other coffees include Mexican Coffee with Kahlua and Tequila, Russian Coffee with Vodka and Boston Caribbean with Crème de Cacao, Myers Dark Rum and Whipped Cream.
Saturdays and Sundays there is a $14 brunch with such choices as Classic Eggs Benedict, Blackberry Buttermilk Pancakes, French Toast with Carmelized Bananas, Omelet with Smoked Salmon and several salads along with Champagne, Bloody Mary, Mimosa, Kir Royal, coffee or tea.
Dinner is served nightly with a menu similar to that at lunch, but with slightly higher prices.
Hours: Monday to Friday lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Very new to the restaurant world is Fireside, located in the Omni Berkshire Hotel at 19 East 52nd street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues (212) 754-5011. But its owner and creator of what might be termed "cocktail cuisine" is the reliable Sam DeMarco, who has been involved in a number of other successful enterprises in New York City. It's new, it's different and it's fun!
First of all, Fireside is reminiscent of a men's club with its comfortable chairs, nooks and crannies and all kinds of places to sit, schmooze and enjoy not only the fascinating drinks, but also the fine food. Cocktails are listed as "signature" and "classic." We chose two signatures. A White Ginger Cosmo with Skyy Vodka for me. Ginger is one of my favorite things and this drink has fresh ginger impaled on a mixer across the top. It was a great drink as was my companion's Cider Martini with Laird's Applejack Brandy. Other choices might be Hibiscus Sidecar, Huckleberry Mojito, Diablo Noir and Kumquat Daisy. Among the "classic" drinks are Pisco Sour, Singapore Sling, Fireside CEO Martini and Hemingway Daiquiri. Of course, there is a full listing of wines either by the bottle or by the glass.
The menu lists "conversation piece" dishes which can be shared, such as Short Rib Tacos, Mojito Lamb Chops and Fireside Lobster Rolls. We opted for Oysters Madison done with seaweed salad, pickled ginger and wasabi mayo. We also had some Lollipop Buffalo Wings. The oysters were spectacular and the wings were nicely spiced are served with bleu cheese.
Had we read the menu more carefully we would have noted that "midtown Shuffle" presented such dishes as Mariahi of Short Rib Tacos, Chorizo Black Bean Soup or Chinatown of Oysters Madison with Sesame Tuna and Fried Rice or American Classic of Mini Burgers and Buffalo Wings. We tasted the burgers which arrived rare as we ordered and were just the right size. These specials are enough for two.
We also sampled Margherita Pizzetta, an excellent small pizza with plum tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. It was very good. We also enjoyed Caesar Stack: whole leaves of romaine, with white anchovy crostini and Parmigiano-Reggiano. On another visit I shall try the Rib Eye Dip of Smoked Ribeye, challah bread, horseradish sour cream au jus. There are many choices.
Our waiter Chris, originally from Texas, was most helpful in explaining the ins and outs of the menu. Incidentally the menu is a large, over-sized duplicate of a packet of matches. You can also order soup such as Truffle Potato-Leek and Beef Carpaccio Crostini with melted marrow. There are other salads such as Warm Beets with Goat Cheese croutons, chopped candied walnuts, kumquats, sherry vinegar and walnut oil.
The Chef's Picks are for those who want heartier meals. Fireside Cobb is rotisserie chicken, romaine and iceberg lettuce, crumbled bleu cheese, bacon, avocado, hard boiled eggs with buttermilk dressing. Steak Frites are pan seared petit-filet, French onion fondue, fire fries and frisse salad. Seared Tuna Nicoise is another choice. These picks are $24 and $25.
Other prices range from $14 for Buffalo Wings to $24 for a Colossal Shrimp Cocktail. The "shuffles" are $21 and the Pizzetta is $14. Drinks are $13 to $15. It is good to report on a place where a superior lunch can be had at a reasonable price.
Desserts are available and we shared a delicious Black and White Chocolate Mousse Parfait. There also is ice cream, sorbet and Crème Brulee as well as Apple Tart and Cheese Cake.
Since the restaurant is located in a hotel, breakfast is served beginning at 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.
Dinner is served with about the same menu as at lunch with such additions as "Center Plates" of Smoked Prime Rib, Sauteed Skate, Diver Sea Scallops "Wellington" and Szechuan "Duck a l'orange."
Hours: Breakfast: Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
Dinner: Daily 5 p.m. to 10p.m.
Late Night 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.