October 19, 2005

10 Columbus Circle  212-823-6338  

(October 17, 2005)   This food is not for the faint of heart.  No, siree.  The food is as big, bold, and brassy as the décor.  The night we ate dinner there, and I suspect it’s always the case, there was a large contingent of Warner music people, not surprising given the location in the Time/Warner Building.  There was probably a sprinkling of Warner-movie types, too, but we suspect that the prices don’t allow too many Time-Life journalists to make it their “company cafeteria.”    cafe-gray.jpgAnd, given the entertainment contingent, the dress code is rather relaxed, to say the least. An amuse bouche of sweet potato samosa with a pear chutney, drunk with a glass of Steele Chardonnay, set the mood for the rest of the dinner.  tomatillo and ramps was delicious and a pleasure to eat.  The quail had been pushed off the bone so that the bone could be used as a handle to eat it with.  Varian’s Langoustine en Bouillabaisse was a classic French fish soup, juiced up with lots of garlic, and poured over squid, shrimp and served with an aioli crouton.

Were we surprised when the waiter then brought out a tasting of pasta fiori tomate concasse for each of us. We weren’t eating the tasting menu, and there was no charge for it.  Maybe everybody gets it, but we think it might have had to do with Varian looking like a critic as she took notes throughout our meal.  In any event, it was superb.

By this time we were drinking a 1998 Brunello di Montalcino from the Argiano vineyards.  And it was wonderful, especially with Gary’s braised short rib of beef, tender, lean and meaty; and served with an intense meaux mustard sauce; and Varian’s pheasant, foie gras and chestnut sausage served over a lentil stew. We still had room for a roasted plum strudel with cinnamon sour cream ice cream with prunes and Armagnac. Varian’s cheese plate included a chevre, a soft sheep cheese, an herbed hard cheese, a yellow hard cheese and a yellow blue-veined one.    The subsequent mignardises were just the perfect ending for a gutsy and flavorful dinner.

Total, with tip, was $340, with the wines accounting for about half.


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