[Pigging by Wilfrid: March 24, 2008]
To mark the twin Poussin and Courbet shows, the Trustees Dining Room at the Met boasted the opportunity to eat a tasting menu of traditional French cuisine.
I was nosy anyway about the room and its park view, so I thought it would make a break from reviewing new openings - places people might actually choose to visit.
The dining room opens for dinner only on Friday and Saturday evenings, and like anything at the Met, it's not that easy to find. It's...well, it's upstairs, at one end of a corridor lined with hospitality suites and works of art displaced from the public galleries. A surprisingly large room - and surprisingly busy - it has the moderately smart, blonde-ish look of a hotel dining room.
The amount of space between the tables would be the envy of any commercial restaurateur in Manhattan. The staff, in uniform, have plenty of space to glide around. Indeed, there should be more trollies. The first thing one notices is that the clientele are a mix of older members, and younger people with some kind of art-world connection. I was lost in admiration at the senior couple who, having finished dinner got started on a martini session.
The second thing one notices is that, by the standards of moderately smart New York dining rooms, it's cheap. A four course tasting menu was priced under $60, wine pairing under $40. The
The only drawback is that the food, while not bad, is not unusually good either. The special French menu was supposed to start with a sweetbread dish. There must have been a run on the sweetbreads, because they looked awfully like scallops when they arrived, and so they proved to be. Or possibly one fat scallop, neatly sliced across and seared.
The only sparkling wine by the glass was Veuve Clicquot. So be it. The wine-list is mainstream, not very long. A Chateau Talbot here, a 1er Cru Givry there, Phelps Merlot, Ridge Zin. The pairing seemed the easy way to go, and the waiter duly brought out four empty glasses per person and ranged them across the table. Suffice to say the wines were unfussily presented - the highlight being the modest Sauternes which accompanied dessert.
A lobster soufflée seemed a good idea, but it arrived somewhat concave, an effect exacerbated by the pouring of a hot, sharply flavored crab sauce.
The lamb chop was actually not bad, at least by the standards I was now applying. It was certainly charred, as if - it seems unlikely, though - a charcoal grill had been involved. Cooked medium rare as requested, with a red wine reduction
The indecisive plate of puddings included what I took to be a sort of rum baba. The flavor of the ice cream, I can't recall. The most dramatic aspect of the room was the long, angled window offering a view of Central Park. Or at least of Central Park after dark. A little bit about the members only restaurant can be found here.