Thursday, February 04, 2010

Respect for the Eggs is the Brunch Litmus Test
Brunch at L'ecole Review

I take brunch seriously. I recently had one of the best at L'ecole, the restaurant of The French Culinary Institute. Full disclaimer: I was invited to this brunch and aside from tips, it was free. Please believe, I would never tell you I loved a meal if I didn't. Speaking of love, they are having a special Valentine's Day brunch.

For $19.50 you get an assortment of freshly made bread, an appetizer and an entree. In Manhattan that is a steal! The quality of everything I tried was stellar. Every dish was clearly made with care and attention. Even more importantly, my eggs weren't crucified. They were exactly how an omelet should be - soft and creamy perfection. Why is it that most brunch spots can't cook eggs? They're always rubbery or brown. Usually, if I want great eggs I have to do it myself or go to Stone Park Cafe in Brooklyn. I even heard another diner order their eggs cooked “over medium”! I could see it and it did look more glistening with a gorgeous wobbly yolk.

Here's what we had:
Complementary Bread: The basket came with an assortment of 5 different types. Most had seeds, nuts or dried fruit and were delicious. Even better, the butter was actually spreadable. I have never understood sending out cold bread with frozen butter.
Cappuccino and a Bloody Mary: Coffee was very good, but the Bloody Mary wasn't that inspiring. It seemed watery and needed more horseradish.
Appetizer of Duck and Pork Terrine with Pistachio and Truffle: I think this was terrific, but I wasn't in the mood for it. It was a cold day and I should have started with something warm. Next time I'll try the French Onion Soup app.

Shrimp & grits

Appetizer of Butter Poached Shrimp on top of Grits with Andouille Sausage: Three perfectly cooked tender juicy shrimp on top of a good 1/2 cup of buttery grits. Very generous serving size for an app.

Omelet: Redolent with delicious smoky bacon, thanks to North Country Bacon out of New Hampshire. I also added in some goat cheese and sauteed onions. Like I said, perfectly cooked eggs! Hooray! It came with a potato terrine in the form of thinly sliced potato, layered with herbs. My only disappointment was that although I could see the herbs between each layer I couldn't actually taste them. I also would have liked a hollandaise or bernaise sauce puddle underneath.

Duck Confit

Second Main of Duck Confit: Delicious juicy duck with a citrus sauce that I wanted more of! The fresh tasty greens (baby arugula?) were a nice accompaniment, but could have used a little more acid in the dressing.

The decor was warm and attractive, though maybe just a little hotel lobby-ish. I appreciated that my seat gave me a view out the street. Ask for the table in the corner closest to the bar. I haven't had dinner there, but the dress of most everyone at brunch was casual. This may sound odd, but the dining room chairs are really comfortable. Some restaurants feel like they chose chairs just so that you would eat and leave as soon as possible. Too bad I didn't take a photo of them. :)
The music level was perfect. I often I find myself at brunch yelling over Led Zeppelin.
This is a great spot to bring larger crowds, though I would make reservations. There are 3 or 4 tables that can take parties of 6 to 10.

Very friendly and attentive. Not sure you can take this into account since they knew I was there to review them. :) I did see that other tables were well taken care of. You can read on Yelp that I'm not alone in my opinions. The yelpers love this place.

Wrap up:
Over all very, very well done French food with good portion sizes at prices that you can't complain about. I plan on coming back as soon as I can and recommend you try it out, maybe this Valentine's Day. I'm looking forward to trying a dinner here. They have a $42 five course prix fixe that dinner menu that includes appetizer, fish course, meat course, salad, and dessert. That is an incredible value. Great spot for any age range, good for dates and out of towners you want to impress.

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