I love so much that is French. The food, the wine, the language, the cities. Pretty much everything. So last year, when I was invited to the first New York baguette competition at the Sofitel, I discovered more than some magnificent baguettes. Turned out that the stylish, French-accented midtown hotel housed a handsome restaurant called Gaby Brasserie Française, named for a Parisian model who found her milieu in 1920s. The brasserie setting was created by Paris-based interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, and the place offered continuous service from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Given those long hours, I meant to have lunch or brunch or something at the restaurant, but somehow I didn’t get there until this year’s New York Restaurant Week.
When I checked Gaby’s menu online, I was impressed with the quality and variety of choices. (Some restaurants give guests short shrift during Restaurant Week, which makes no sense at all to me. If someone is trying your restaurant for the first time, wouldn’t you want to give them reasons to return?)
I knew that I would dine well, but I brought a friend who is a vegan (with additional dietary restrictions)—and who often has to settle for a very plain salad. Not at Gaby. For an appetizer, she chose an Asparagus Salad with chiffonade fennel, baby kale, pumpkin seeds (with a roasted shallot vinaigrette on the side). My choice was a silky Tomato and Lavender Soup. Applause all around for the starters.
Now the challenge. For me the entrée had to be Cold Water Maine Lobster Tail with braised fingerling potatoes, slab bacon and leek fondue. But for my friend who loves pasta but can’t have most prepared sauces, we made a special request. The menu offered Fresh Tagliatelli Pasta with a short rib and winter vegetable ragout. Could she have the pasta—without the ragout? Of course, our server said.
This was impressive, especially since it was Restaurant Week and the three-course menu cost only $29 (a couple of items, including my lobster incurred a supplement). We both ate heartily and happily and while I had already picked out my dessert, my friend declared that she would have to skip that course, as the menu offered three luscious choices, but nothing she was allowed.
At our server’s suggestion, I chose the White Chocolate Mousse, but when my friend said the menu had nothing for her, he asked what she could have. Sorbet was the answer. Immediately he said “yes,” he would bring her sorbet. Now we were flabbergasted. I’ve heard of good service, but this was above and beyond.
And so were the desserts, delicious fruit sorbet for my friend, and, for me, a mousse within a mosaic chocolate cup that looked like a piece of art and tasted sublime.
Thoroughly sated and impressed, we left Gaby and said we would return–well before the next Restaurant Week.
Gaby Brasserie Française, 44 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036; Telephone 212-782-3040 http://www.gabynyrestaurant.com/