The Lever House Restaurant

November 8, 2006

One of my pet peeves is the “Egyptian tomb” interior architecture of the Musée d’Orsay.  It clashes with the beautiful old railway station and the nineteenth century art; it deadens the light and does not create nice rooms to display it.  But leverrestaurant-2.jpgit is nowhere near as bad as The Lever House Restaurant, an Egyptian tomb encrustation on one of New York’s great architectural masterpieces, The Lever House.  As one descends the chute from the entryway, the noise is deafening.  One could be Radames entering for the triumphal march, but, alas, there is no Aïda nor camels nor trophies nor trumpets at the other end, just a horde of loudly chattering people in grey suits seated at tables in an ugly, windowless cavern.  leverrestaurant-3.jpgThere is a bar to the left and, at the end, a window on an elevated private dining room that looks like the Pharaoh’s way of showing his superiority.   On one side there is a blank concrete wall.  On the other side, there are raised one-table cubicles with big mirrored dots for décor.  At the larger tables in the middle of the room everyone is shouting at each other.  The noise effect is exponential so even the tables for two have trouble.  We asked our waiter to turn our table sideways so we leverrestaurant-1.jpgcould both sit on the banquette.  He did and so Linda and I were able to hear each other and I did not have to stare at the blank concrete wall all through a conversationless meal.  Hey, wait a second: isn’t this blog supposed to be about food, not interior design?  Well, yes, but does the restaurant or its clientele know that?  They say on their website: 

Lever House Restaurant, located in the landmark mid-century building of the same name, features the creative seasonal American cuisine of Chef Dan Silverman, as well as stunning interiors created by internationally renowned designer Marc Newson. Lever House has quickly made its mark on the New York dining scene, receiving a nomination from the James Beard Society for Best New Restaurant in 2003 as well as the 2004 nod from New York Magazine for Best Service. In September 2005 Lever House was given a coveted star in the Michelin Guide for New York City. 

The star has just been renewed in the new red guide so we went on November 7, 2006.  (Zagats is much more restrained in its rating; bravo for them (or should I say: bravo for us?).) There was a large and uninspiring selection of wines by the glass. Not wanting to adventure onto such unpromising territory I ordered a glass of pinot noir and Linda a glass of ordinary champagne. They were okay.  For the red wine we had a bottle of 2004 Loring Santa Lucia Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir which was very good. 

The amuse gueule was a bland eggplant caviar with foccacia strips. Fortunately the $110 Tasting Menu seemed boring (vitello tonnato, roast cod, beef tenderloin with foie gras, sorbets and brown sugar cake) so we didn’t order it. Linda started leverrestaurant-4.jpgwith grilled Sullivan County foie gras, dried apricot-sour cherry compote and spiced pecans. (The pecans were very peppery.) They didn’t bring any toasts with that so she made do with the foccacia from the amuse gueule which was still on the table. I had the lobster tempura with tartar sauce. Two fresh, flavorful half lobster tails were done just right in a tempura batter; the sauce was ordinary, but went very well. (There must have been a Japanese chef hiding in a corner of the kitchen.) 

For the main course Linda had the Colorado rack of lamb with romesco sauce and roasted pepper ragout. The four chops were very pretty and perfectly cooked, but the lamb had no flavor. I had the special of the evening, a braised lamb shank.  In my opinion, braising is supposed to concentrate the flavor of the meat and infuse whatever herbs or whatever is added.  This braising technique seemed to think that the idea was to leach out whatever flavor the meat had to begin with.  It was served with spinach and fennel that I didn’t eat as I thought it might affect the wine, which was the only good thing we had going for us at that point. The dessert menu looked ordinary and we skipped it, but they brought us two nice chocolate truffles.   

Our waiter was excellent and all the service was fine.  The bill was $305, including tip.  Don’t go.

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