Written by Hulda Lawrence
Entering the Brasserie in the Seagram Building at 100 East 53rd Street (212) 751-4840, is rather like going on stage. As they come through the revolving door, diners are caught by camera and their images are projected onto a bank of 15 video monitors suspended over the long bar. After checking outer garments at the top of the glass stairway, one descends to the sunken dining area. It is a décor heavy on drama using pear wood throughout, with a banquette on one wall. On another wall there are small booths separated by huge upholstered dividers, and across the room is the coolest wine rack in Manhattan - a frosted floor-to-ceiling expanse of floating bottles.
After one is seated the first act begins with cocktails from the extensive bar all the while nibbling on the fresh baguette that decorated the table. Our server, Heidi from Gloucester, Mass., was a wealth of information about the many foods available. As we perused the menu, I was fascinated by its cover which had breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night done in changeable lettering.
Renaud Ammon from Bordeaux, whom we had met at Café Centro, appeared to greet us. We sipped our drinks and with Heidi's help selected for our appetizers a Blue Crab Bisque and Crab Cake. The soup was delicious and topped by pastis and saffron rouille. The crab cake was round as a baseball, but had no filler and was garnished with tropic fruit slaw. Other starters include Maine Lobster Salad; Onion Soup Gratinee; Prince Edward Island Mussels done in any of several ways and White and Red Endive Salad.
For an entree we shared Oven Baked Chilean Sea Bass which was decorated with Manilla clams, white beans and set in an herbed broth. Our other choice was a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon Cafe de Paris with a peppercorn sauce and potatoes. The meat arrived "rare," exactly as ordered. Other entrees include Seared King Salmon, Roasted Chicken Risotto, Ocean Striped Bass, Steak Frites, Seafood Mixed Grill, Short Rib Pot au Feu or Omelettes. Prices for luncheon entrees are $15 to $34 for the steak.
Lighter fare includes Chicken Chop Chop Salad, Sesame Ahi Tuna, Caesar Salad, Brasserie Burger or Cheeseburger, Lobster Club Sandwich, Grilled Chicken Paillard or Sea Scallops priced $16.50 to $26. There is a Raw Bar with Ahi Tuna Tartare, Yellow Tail Hamachi Sashimi and oysters, clams and shrimp.
The wine list is long and complete with many varieties available in half bottles or by the glass. By the glass prices range from $6 for a California Rose to $15 for Veuve Clicquot, Brut. Half bottles start at $17 for Cotes du Rhone, E. Guigal 2000 to Cabernet Sauvignon Staglin Family Vineyard, Rutherford 1999 at $68. Our choices were glasses of Sancerre, Les Belles Vignes, Fournier Loire 2002 to $10 for my companion and Merlot, Reserve St. Martin, Pays d'Oc for me at $9.
From the dessert menu we selected Pumpkin Cheesecake and Chocolate Beignets. The cheesecake with cranberry marmalade and cinnamon cream and the beignets with caramel ice cream were exceptional. Other desserts include Rum Raisin Bread Pudding, Frozen Chocolate Souffle, Poire William Chocolate Dome, Crème Brulee du Jour, a platter of cookies and all kind of sorbets and ice cream. All desserts are $8. Willie Mae Pryor is the Pastry Chef.
This is fine French food along with some dishes with an Oriental touch, presented in an exciting, very modern ambiance. Service is excellent and there is a friendly attitude. There is a private room for small groups. Luc Dimnet is the Executive Chef, Restaurant Associates leave nothing to chance so that if you make you reservation on ONLINE you can view the menus in advance.
Hours: Breakfast 7 a. m. to 10 a.m. Monday to Friday
Acqua Pazza ("Crazy water") is a straightforward Italian restaurant located at 36 West 52nd Street, 212 582-6900. The name is derived from the way in which Italian fishermen in the 15th century prepared their fish taken from the Mediterranean: cooked with cherry tomatoes and sautéed in salt water so as not to use up the precious sweet water. Although there is a heavy fish and seafood presence, those who prefer veal, lamb, poultry, or dishes done with beef will not be disappointed.
On a recent afternoon we enjoyed luncheon at this popular spot. Its décor is simple, but great care is given to the preparation of food. We began with cocktails, a Cosmopolitan for me and a Negroni for my companion. We scanned the long menu and were delighted to note each choice described as to its ingredients. From the six salads we selected Marzolina, a delicious mix of grilled Portobello mushroom, arugula, roasted hazelnuts, Montasio cheese and a tomato garnish. Salads are $8 to $11.
Among the eight pasta dishes we were intrigued by Taglioni, espresso-flavored pasta, done with rock shrimp and porcini mushrooms in a seafood broth. Other choices are Caprici, spiral pasta, eggplant, salted ricotta, plum tomato and basil; Spaghettini with squid, scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp and tomato; Linguettine with baby clams, olive oil, Pinot Grigio; Mezzemaniche, short rigatoni with red and yellow peppers, tropea onions, gaeta olives and tomato; Gnocchetti, spinach and ricotta gnocchi with gaeta olives and tomato; Tortelli, filled with salami, taleggio cheese, ragu of mushrooms and beef and Cavatelli, short oval pasta with slowly roasted leg of wild boar ragu. Pasta dishes are $16 to $18.
For our entrees we chose Orata, pan seared sea bream with golden raisins, pignolas, lemon and fresh herbs. It was a new approach to this good fish and the flavor was enhanced by the fine preparation. Other seafood choices include Grilled Wild Canadian Salmon with grated fennel and Piemonte mustard chive sauce; Sauteed Shrimp with white wine and lemon sauce; Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna with an aged balsamic vinegar reduction; and Frilled Atlantic Swordfish with citrus reduction, white wine and wild mushrooms.
Our other entree was Arlesiana, veal pounded very thin with grilled asparagus, roasted pepper, melted mozzarella and Parmigiana. This too was an excellent choice and on my next visit there are several other entrees to taste including Quaglie, grilled quail wrapped in pancetta; Capone, breast of capon filled with fontina cheese, prosciutto di Parma, mushrooms and white wine; Involtini, veal rolled with escarole, mozzarella, golden raisins, sautéed tomato and a hint of cream; Medaglioni, veal medallions with wild mushrooms, herbs and white wine; Agnello, braised lamb shank with Barbaresco wine, caramelized shallots and roasted potato. Luncheon entrees are $19 to $26.
At dinner Ossobuco is on the menu as are Portafoglio, veal filled with fontina cheese, prosciutto, walnuts and a Barolo wine sauce; Anitra, pan seared breast of duck with a brandy cream cranberry reduction; Cervo, a pan seared venison with chestnuts and a Barolo wine sauce and Fiorentina, marinated aged T-bone steak. Dinner entrées are $24 to $34.
There is an extensive wine list and wines also are available by the glass. Our choices were Pinot Grigio for my companion and San Giovese di Romagne for me.
There are antipasto with such choices as Charred Octopus, served warm with red onions, olive oil, seawater broth and cherry tomato; Polenta with mushroom ragu; Calamari e Gamberi, grilled Atlantic squid, shrimp, borlotti beans and baby field greens; Spec e Pere, Bartlett pear wrapped in baked speck, mache salad, walnut with gorgonzola cheese dressing and Antipasto misto, assorted salami, buffalo mozzarella, pepper, Sardinia anchovies, Portobello mushroom and artichoke. Prices are $9 to $12.
Desserts are mouth-watering. We shared a chocolate trio of delicious kinds of desserts and a fine Baba au Rhum done with three rums. Cappuccino ended our fine repast.
Hours: Lunch: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.