Written by Marilyn Hansen with M.J. Boyer
Chez Josephine, 414 West 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, (212) 594-1925, is on Theatre Row, home to many Off-Broadway Theatres.
The moment you step inside the door, the dramatic, theatrical aura of the place will envelope you. Charming, affable Jean-Claude Baker, owner, will very likely welcome you and settle you into a cozy table.
French-born Jean-Claude has created this boite out of a love for the legendary Josephine Baker (his adopted mother), the American-born chanteuse/dancer who made a scandalous sensation in Paris nightclubs and cabarets in the mid 20s and 30s. Chez Josephine today sets the rakish mood with its zinc-topped, dark-wood paneled bar, red velvet drapes, lushly gathered curtains; not to mention the year-round red Christmas balls, feather boas, plus theatre posters and risque, life-size oil paintings of Josephine herself. The whole effect gives you an exciting sense of anticipation.
On the French-American menu, recommended appetizers begin with a moist, tasty crab cake on a bed of mesclun, chopped tomatoes and tartar sauce; endive salad with Roquefort and walnuts; crisply fried oysters over slivered fennel and lime. Love lobster bisque? Chez Josephine's version is chunky with lobster in a fragrant, soothing base.
Perusing the list of main courses, roasted monkfish with Savoy cabbage in a red burgundy sauce is a personal favorite. Other recommended choices: lobster cassoulet with shrimp, scallops and seafood sausage with black beans in broth; Black Angus shell steak au poivre with sauteed potatoes and fried chicken with sweet potato fries and red pepper cornbread strikes a southern chord.
From a varied selection of desserts we suggest the rich, velvety Le Delice Josephine, a flourless chocolate cake; black and white chocolate mousse with creme anglaise; creme brulee and bombe praline molded ice cream, crunchy with praline.
Why not linger with an after-dinner drink and listen to the live piano music played nightly by Chris Curtis at the ebony baby grand?
Hours: Chez Josephine is open Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. Dinner: Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m. Le Madeleine, 403 West 43rd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, (212) 246-2993, is a charming little bistro, celebrating its 20th year of operation. The facade presents an inviting appearance with lace curtains at the windows and an awning that spans the whole front.
Le Madeleine, 403 West 43rd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, (212) 246-2993, is a charming little bistro, celebrating its 20th year of operation. The facade presents an inviting appearance with lace curtains at the windows and an awning that spans the whole front.
Inside you'll find a dark-wood paneled bar with tin counter, and painted brick walls hung with large French travel and theatrical posters. A year-round garden room is a delight in any weather as it is enclosed with a glass skylight roof, and provided with heat in winter and air-conditioning in summer. The garden room is replete with hanging flowering plants, ivy and a gently bubbling water fountain.
Chef Bruce Beaty has composed three appealing menus for lunch, brunch and dinner. Under the heading appetizers and salads, the endive, roquefort and baby beet salad with toasted walnut vinaigrette has lots of crumbled roquefort, walnuts and apple wedges; Basque style steamed mussels with chorizo sausage, roasted red peppers, onions and virgin olive oil is a lively, spicier version of the traditional. Grilled shrimp salad au poivre with eggplant caviar, curry and coriander vinaigrette is a great combination.
Main courses include a moist, grilled mahi mahi with sauteed spinach, curried fennel and a saffron and sweet garlic vinaigrette; roasted flavorful and juicy organic farm chicken with potato puree, ratatouille and natural jus. Beaty also does steak frites-grilled sirloin with French fries, and steak au poivre-grilled sirloin with a classic green peppercorn, cognac and cream sauce. With the idea of pleasing every taste, there's pasta du jour, composed daily.
For dessert, chocolate lovers rave about the dark, bittersweet terrine of chocolate with pistachio creme anglaise. Seasonal fruits poached in red wine with candied walnuts and creme fraiche is an inspiration that works, likewise the lemon custard with orange marmalade and honey madeleines.
Remember, too, if you're dining later, after the pre-theatre crush, the whole atmosphere of the restaurant is more serene. Come in after the show for your dessert, coffee and maybe a dessert wine.
Hours: Le Madeleine is open every day. Lunch: Monday-Friday: 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Wednesday: 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Brunch/Lunch: Saturday and Sunday: 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Thursday: 5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Sunday: 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.