Want a place where you know the food is consistently high-end and the service is perfect? Did I fail to mention that portions are generous? Well, Brasserie 8 1/2 is that place.
A place this large, well-decorated and classy might seem like it is going to be outrageously expensive but they always have a $29 two-course lunch special and $38 dinner special (you do not have to wait to Restaurant Week for these prices). I had a gorgeous and delicious lunch special. I selected the Petite Laiture Au Fromage, which is baby Gem lettuce, walnuts, cherries, Bosc pears and Bucherondin goat cheese and was sent into heaven. The baby Gem lettuce was the most tender and fresh tasting lettuce that I have ever had PERIOD and the Bucherondin cheese was just to die for. It had a creamy texture like no other goat cheese I have had before. The dried cherries were super moist and sweet.
I then moved onto the Flat Iron Steak, which is served with Bordelaise sauce, potato Lyonnaise, green asparagus and Vidalia onions. The onions were lightly sauteed in French butter and put on top of the sliced potatoes in a bit of a volcano shape; the buttery taste was just beautiful when eaten together. As for the steak, well, it was a beautiful 8-ounce grass-fed, hormone free sirloin sliced into four large chunks done perfectly medium rare. It was a beautiful site for a foodie’s eyes but an even more beautiful taste. The meat was marbelized and buttery.
I wanted to try their uber-fresh organic veggie sides, and picked the wild mushrooms and haricots verts. To say they were stunning is an understatement. The ‘rooms were the wild Chanterelles that you find at a Parisian open art vegetable and fruit market. They were tender and sweet. The haricot verts were tender and tasted like they were fresh picked (they were sauteed in sea salt mixed with butter and olive oil).
The crab salad is legendary here (as are the crab cakes) and it was ordered by my dining partner and good friend Pamela Des Barres (who penned I’m With The Band, the top music book on Amazon in its 30th anniversary year). She adored it and also order the succulent Duck Two Ways, which is juicy roasted duck served with confit bulgar wheat, rhubarb and orange gastrique.
Speaking of seafood, they have a Seafood Plateau that is a generous mixed tray of lobster, mussels, oysters, clams and other five-star crustaceans that serves 2-3 people for $75. This is a particularly popular item in the lounge area, which has its own special menu. This is some of NYC’s most elegant “bar food”–included in the bar menu is Farm House Cheeses, Mac And Cheese (made with truffle butter and bacon, Mussels Picante, Escargot Petit Gris, Black Angus Sliders and Croquets.
Lunch ended with us sharing two desserts–Peach Melba and Creme Brulee. Both were huge portions and done according to the classic French recipes. Well, sort of–while the creamy Creme Brulee was served room temperature as opposed to having a hot carmelized crust on top. The Peach Melba featured a frozen recently-picked and marinated peach and moist, crumbled pieces of yellow cake. If you are a dessert freak first and foremost, I strongly recommend Brasserie 8 1/2’s Sunday Brunch Buffet where you can have them to your heart’s content (and I will be the last person to judge you for eating eight desserts, LOL)!
The dessert list reads like French patisserie’s greatest hits and includes: Black Plum Tartlette, Beignets, Chocolate Trio (including Pot De Creme), Raspberry Mousse Cake, Fresh Fruit & Berries, Warm Molten Chocolate Cake and more! the offer the most divine artisanal French and Italian cheeses on the dessert menu as well and they are all worth checking out.
I love the decor at Brasserie 8 1/2. It is a mixture of art deco, airy loft and what I would call traditional living room (the tufted leather chairs in the cocktail area and the tufted leather banquets give an air of a Park Avenue living room). There is a gorgeous Mondrian art installment on the back wall with images of Marlon Brando and other luminaries. There is a tremendous amount of room between the dining tables so you never feel cramped. There are all sorts of extra touches like a huge assortment of fresh baked breads at the beginning of your meal down to cute designs in your cappucino foam at the end of your meal.
Brasserie 8 1/2 is participating in French Restaurant Week and just good ol’ regular Restaurant Week but as I mentioned before, they always have great Prix Fixes for lunch and dinner that are comparable. There is also a $14 Endless Mimosas special that accompanies the wonderful $34 Sunday Brunch Buffet. There is also an Oyster Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7:30 PM where oysters are only $1 each and served with a variety of sauces. Brasserie 8 1/2 also has a $45 Two Course Lobster Prix Fixe on Sundays and Mondays, 5 PM to closing. For more info on this classy eatery with the flair and authenticity of a real French bistro, visit http://www.brasserie812.com