Let's take a detour from the usual Taiwan food and give you a glimpse of what Sunday afternoon was like during my last trip to New York, shall we? My flight left JFK at 6:30pm, which meant I needed to leave the city by 4:00pm to make it through security in time. Originally, the plan was to go to New Jersey to see my best friend's tail-less, meow-less cat who wears a pink sweater, but the transit time to and from there would have been quite a stretch on my already-tight last day. It was fortunate that I canceled those plans, because Elizabeth (one of the 4 filles who went to Dijon in 2003) called and wanted to get lunch somewhere midtown, close to the Port Authority, from which her bus to Boston was leaving. Not being familiar with any restaurants near Times Square (midtown west) that didn't try to serve up a side of consumerism with your entree of tourist, I went with good ol' nymag.com to help me narrow down a decent restaurant that wasn't astronomically priced. I originally started out narrowing down my choices by neighborhood, then cuisine, then price, but I wanted to do something different than the Hispanic or French cuisine I had had all weekend. I chose the "London Bar" because I thought it would remind us of London, and since it was a bar, food would come quickly so Elizabeth and I could make our respective modes of transportation. The number I called turned out to be the common line for "maze," a silver and teal toned, less formal restaurant by Gordon Ramsay in the London Hotel. I had heard of his name before in culinary circles, but had not made the connection that this was the guy who has a show on the Food Network.
I think it worked out well that we landed at such a posh restaurant. If the 3-course lunch was a steal at $35, (2 courses were $25, but who would reject a Gordon Ramsay dessert?) I can only imagine how expensive food normally is at maze.
Elizabeth's elegant white cowl neck sweater went well with the sterile-looking silver and teal of the restaurant. All the dishes were the purest of white, and there were nifty little holders of silver for your silverware.
I was impressed by how the waiter poured my coffee. Usually I just pour a bunch of coffee and fill the rest with milk, unable to control how much cream goes in the cup of coffee. He poured about half of the cup of coffee, then added the amount of cream I wanted, and topped the cup off with some more coffee. In the oval container to the right are actual lumps (not cubes, not crystals, LUMPS) of brown and white sugar.
The first course for me was the hand-dipped sea scallops seared with a coating of curry salt. The dish is garnished with a slightly sweet plum sauce and bernaise sauce. I don't know what the two little crispies in the corners are, but they were delicious. I have a suspicion that they are made with the same type of batter as gougeres.
Another view of the scallops. Each was as big as my cellphone.
Despite having lived in Dijon for a semester, I did not actually taste the complexity that is Coq Au Vin. Coq au vin est un plat bourguigon (dish from Burgundy) that is one of the classics in French cuisine. It is characterized by the red wine sauce (usually a burgandy wine). Here, the coq au vin is served with three small bits of baby carrots (very tender but not mushy), on a bed of salty cabbage. The cabbage is like a sauerkraut that itsn't sour. The buttermilk colored sauce to the left is foie gras veloute. A veloute is a creamy sauce that is not creamy. I can only describe it as velvety - not rich, but not watery, if that helps.
They only coated the top section of the chicken with the thick wine sauce. I think it was a brilliant move, because the flavor would have been very overpowering had all the chicken been drenched in sauce. The sauce actually juxtaposes itself perfectly with the crispiness of the skin of the other two pieces of meat.
For dessert, I went with the blackberry lemon cheesecake. It's only a cheesecake in the loosest of senses. The crust, instead of being at the bottom, was a light dusting of crispy crumbs. The top layer of cream is less dense than a regular cheesecake, and is separated from the richer bottom half (that was flavored with lemon) by a thin layer of blackberry confiture (jam). There is a small surprise at the bottom tip of the glass, in the form of pleasantly tangy lemon custard.
Peanut brittle and chocolate truffles with caramel centers finish off the meal.
By the time we got to the petit-fours, nobody had space to eat anymore, so they gave us this nifty little box (about the size of a lipstick holder) in which to pack the petits-fours.