Monday, July 18, 2011

Do You Brunch? A Review of Orsay

1057 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10021, 212-517-6400 www.orsayrestaurant.com

We usually choose not to review a restaurant based only on brunch, particularly if their regular fare is quite different. Around here there are plenty of Italian, Greek and other ethnic cuisine restaurants offering Sunday brunch menus filled with omelets, pancakes and other expected American favorites. And that brings us to the question of how popular brunch is in other parts of the country? Here in New York City it's practically required and all restaurants seem compelled to offer it.

Do You Brunch?  A Review of Orsay
In Manhattan, Sunday brunch can be an impromptu, casual affair with patrons looking as if they just rolled out of bed (probably because they did).  But brunch can also be an event where well dressed diners meet friends and colleagues at establishments that require reservations. Orsay is just such a place and we met an old friend there on a recent Sunday.

Distinguished looking men in crisp shirts and blazers and elegant women in ruffled blouses filled the beautiful room and the noise level was deafening. We asked for a seat on the terrace where it was more peaceful and we could converse without shouting.

With so many people in this city, restaurants typically begin serving brunch around 11:00 and continue until well past 2:00 and even 3:00 pm. At Orsay, we booked a 1:30 table and the crowd showed no sign of abating anytime soon.

Brian and I are more typically in the casual and late brunch set. Our Saturdays are likely to be busy as we tend to errands and chores we didn't have time for during the work week. Typically it isn't until late afternoon that we mix up a batch of cocktails, ponder dinner reservations and settle into a slower pace. And we tend to stay in relaxed mode from that point on...at least until Monday morning's alarm clock rings!

To us, Sundays are for sleeping late and lazing around. Even our pup is sound asleep at the foot of our bed at well past her normal hour. At some point, of course, we'll rise and eventually drag ourselves out. If the weather is lovely, we'll head to the park with the dog and then seek out an outdoor cafe for our late brunch. In inclement weather we'll head to our favorite local diner with the big booths by the windows.

Do You Brunch?  A Review of Orsay
But for our date at Orsay we put on our Sunday best and went to join the well-heeled upper east siders for French cuisine. The service was good and the surroundings lovely. The brunch menu seems to stick closely to their normal menu although at a prix fixe of nearly $30 each, it was no bargain. That included our choice of juice, bread, an appetizer and an entree but typical brunch refreshments such Bloody Mary's and Mimosas were nearly $10 extra.

Do You Brunch?  A Review of Orsay
For appetizers we chose the goat cheese salad with frisee, mache, yellow beets and apples with a walnut vinaigrette. We also had the house smoked salmon with watercress salad, creme fraiche, onions and capers.

Do You Brunch?  A Review of Orsay
We found it interesting that the menu undersells itself. The description for the goat cheese salad did not mention that the cheese is breaded and served warm. And the description for the salmon left out the generous mound of crispy shoe string potatoes piled on top. Both were lovely surprises but would have been selling features. A classic cheese omelet with hash brown potatoes rounded out our meal.

Apart from our normal preference to brunch casually and with a dog under our table, Orsay is a delightful, if pricey, experience...except for the noise.

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