I’ve been eating my way around New York for a couple of days. Excellent food at good prices…it’s hard to tell what the common denominator in a good restaurant is, if there is one, but I think excellent food at good prices is the place to start.
I had lunch with a friend at a place on the Lower East Side called “Elephant,” which has an Indian décor and staff but a sign in the window describes it as Thai. Chopsticks are offered wrapped in the silverware napkin.
My friend was paying, and he had eaten there often. He recommended the salmon with cucumbers, and we both ordered it. There must have been a whole cucumber on each plate, chopped and marinated in a light vinaigrette which may have contained lime and definitely had mint chopped among other herbs. I think there was some fresh tarragon. He said he had tried over and over to duplicate it but couldn’t. A chunk of grilled salmon sat atop the cukes, and a swirl of finely spiral-chopped marinated beets adorned the place. It was a satisfying and economical lunch – gourmet level, with the bill of $5 per person. There was nothing skimpy about the servings, and the ingredients were fresh and made a wonderful combination.
Back in the neighborhood of my hostelry, I had passed a place with the name of “La Grainne Café” which I assumed to be vegetarian. I couldn’t recall the word grainne from my rudimentary French, but think it might be the same as “grain,” which would suggest health food.
Yesterday and today a chalk board out in front of La Grainne Café proclaimed “Carrot” as the soup of the day. I thought a soup would be nice, so in I went.
I discovered, rather than a “grain” restaurant, that I had stumbled onto a truly French café, with fresh salads, crêpes, moules, mousse au chocolat, and other French specialties. The walls were covered with hammered tin painted a bold yellow overlaid, as is now the style, with an orange wash. I ordered the ham, egg, and cheese crêpe, thinking it would be kind of a supper version of breakfast. First I was brought a couple of slices of a tasty white French bread with that extra-fat, unsalted butter the French are famous for. There was a large wine bottle on my table which I discovered, by observing other diners, was my drinking water.
The crêpe, produced with whole wheat flour, was wrapped around its filling of Gruyere, diced ham, and an egg, in a way that no Frenchman would ever eat for breakfast. It came with a fresh salad of mixed greens that even made a little frisee, my least favorite thing to find in a salad, palatable. The meal set me back $9.75, and even with a tip I was able to stay well under any budget I could have imagined for the day. Of course it doesn’t hurt with someone else is doing the buying!