How do you have the best birthday dining experience possible? Lure your parents to Manhattan, make a reservation at one of the finest French restaurants and force them to pay as you are fed delicious food until you can barely breathe. Well at least that’s what I did for my birthday this year at La Grenouille and I have no regrets (besides succumbing to a food coma afterwards).
As I walked into the dimly lit dining space at La Grenouille I was immediately removed from 52nd and Madison and transported to one of France’s finest. Moments after arriving, my family and I were greeted with the classic “bon soir” by a spiffy man dressed in a suit and we were escorted to our table.
La Grenouille has an elegant, plush ambience with classic red booths, delicate white tablecloths and stunning floral arrangements. As I sat down I couldn’t help but notice the crowd – high-class Upper East siders sipping on chardonnay, a middle-aged couple making a toast to their anniversary, and well-dressed families gathered for a nice Saturday dinner. There was something so enchanting about the classy crowd, luxurious atmosphere, and French-speaking waiters.
Minutes after being seated we were given our menus and wine list. The only true complaint I have about this restaurant was the pushy service at the beginning of our meal. Not even three minutes after being seated, the waiter came up to our table asking if we were ready to order. Then he did it five minutes later, and five minutes after that. Being that I love long, extravagant dinners I was in no mood to rush my birthday celebration. The only thing I knew at this point was that I wanted some celebratory birthday champagne and a long, wondrous dinner full of edible French masterpieces.
After the waiter came back a third time, we finally dropped the hint that he was being a little too pushy and he backed off until we were ready to order. Needless to say the rest of the evening was pretty flawless after that.
Like any good risotto, the mushroom risotto was creamy, buttery and extremely rich. It was the perfect starter to split with the table before getting our own appetizers.
Anyone who reads my blog on the reg will know that I have been having a love affair with foie gras for a very long time. This foie gras had a typical sweet pairing of huckleberries and was cooked to perfection with a velvety texture and intense, unforgettable taste.
After my dining experience in Saint-Tropez I wasn’t sure I could ever have a foie gras terrine as wonderful and fresh as the ones I enjoyed in the south of France. However, this foie gras terrine came in a close second with a creamy, smooth texture and a hint of sea salt on top to give it a pop. Perfect with jam and sliced bread.
The lobster ravioli was a less intense dish and a great final appetizer to balance the beginning of our meal. The pasta was soft, the lobster was sweet and delicate, and the tarragon added an aromatic kick that tied it all together. The sauce was creamy but not too overwhelming as the tastes of all of the ingredients were able to shine through and compliment one another.
The Dover sole was an elegant and excellently prepared dish. The fish was cooked to perfection and expertly deboned while the mustard sauce was creamy, subtle and sensational. The Dover sole was more than an entrée — it was a masterpiece.
The filet mignon was a special of the night, perfect for my friend who wanted something a bit less risqué than the other choices on the menu. This was the only dish that wasn’t mind-blowing, it was just good and predictable.
The duck breast with cherries and wild rice was a divine meat dish, perfect for the duck lover (aka myself). I was truly blown away by this phenomenal entrée. The duck was tender and fatty, the cherries were subtly sweet and perfect on top of the duck breast. The wild rice was dense and almost had a risotto-like texture. All three ingredients together made for the perfect bite.
The peach soufflé was the only dish that I wasn’t crazy about at La Grenouille. This is the second fruit-flavored soufflé I have ever tried (I also had a green apple soufflé at Saint-Tropez’s finest restaurant, La Vague d’Or) and I just don’t think they are my style. Not that the soufflé wasn’t prepared correctly (it had a light and fluffy texture and crisp exterior), it just had a warm, candy-like taste and an overpowering sweetness.
To sum it all up, La Grenouille has an enchanting atmosphere and an authentic French dish selection that is perfect for anyone who loves French cuisine. If you’re really looking to knock it out of the ballpark, go for the Dover sole or duck breast with a chocolate soufflé.