|Trifle in a big bowl! The happy diners of Albert Herring|
I’ve been asked often enough for recommendations of dining establishments to visit before or after an evening at the Metropolitan Opera that I really don’t know why it’s taken me this long to put together a post on it. You should know, in surveying it, that I’m a happily omnivorous graduate student, frequently facing the prospect of killing two hours between the distribution of rush tickets and the raising of the chandeliers. Hence, I’m likely to pass over a number of choices that might seem obvious to more affluent gourmets, or visitors in the mood for a treat, in favor of more modest Hell’s Kitchen spots. With this caveat, then, Gentle Readers: here are a few of the restaurants I happily patronize on the nights I don’t take a picnic in my pocket.
Italian Warhorses (special caveat: this is an incomplete list in several ways. I happen to live in a neighborhood where I can get excellent Italian on the cheap, so my knowledge of these restaurants is small, and my praise commensurately reserved.)
Terrazza Toscana: here the lighting is soft and the wine list good. The ingredients are good, and there are a number of vegetarian options.
Puttanesca: This place is a little more modern in feel than the Terrazza, with standard recipes spiced up in the details.
Fiorello’s: The Beloved Flatmate and I stumbled in here after this Tosca performance. That I remember very little about it is doubtless attributable to my emotional state at the time; the pasta was warm and comforting.
Vive la France
Just opposite the Met is a stable of establishments run by Daniel Boulud. Bar Boulud is sleek and romantically lit and not really for graduate student budgets, but its menu is tantalizing and its desserts downright thrilling. The Epicerie Boulud is a very welcome addition: its location makes sprinting across the street in time for the curtain a stress-free prospect, and its menu options are both exciting and affordable. The pre-made sandwiches, hot and cold, are tasty (the sausage merguez is a favorite) but choosing generous slices of pate and pointing to crusty breads is even more fun. If you're feeling extravagant, you could get a tiny slice of opera cake to take along for an interval treat.
Chez Napoleon: The presence of this family-run establishment, on 50th St. just off 9th Avenue, is betrayed by a battered sign with the emperor’s iconic hat on it. A reservation might be advisable if you have your heart set on vichyssoise. I don’t think it’s impossible to go wrong with this menu (and the prix fixe is good) but the vichyssoise stands out.
Landmarc: French-American may seem like an odd, if not a sacrilegious hyphenated cuisine, but here it actually works. The salads are excellent, the steak good, and the caramels that arrive with the check addictive.
Seville and beyond