unsolicited recommendation: orsay on 75th & lex

had dinner last night at orsay, in new york city on 75th st. and lexington avenue.

i’m usually not one to venture onto the upper east side of manhattan. the transportation is awkward if you live on the west side, which we do. the extreme upper west side. but last night, kirk chose this restaurant to celebrate his raise and new title at work.

so i schlepped.

and i’m glad i did. the a la carte menu looked great, especially the blanquette de veau, and a beef cheek special. but they had a prix fixe “surprise”, which intrigued. for $38, you got a surprise appetizer, a surprise entree, and a surprise dessert. you could tell them “fish or meat” for the entree, and of course let them know if you had allergies and whatnot. but other than that, you were flying blind. we went for it, and asked for wine pairings to accompany.

the appetizer was a chicken terrine, wrapped in smoky bacon and studded with vegetables — i remember mushrooms and carrots. accompanying the terrine was a frisée salad with small potatoes and bacon. both were wonderful, both separately and together. the wine was a chablis — i remember it being very buttery, though not sure of the name. i was very proud of myself for figuring out the wine tasted buttery; i usually can’t tell these things and when the sommelier gave us that assessment unprompted, i was amazed.

the entrée was a pork porterhouse with a dipping sauce that had tiny julienned cornichons, and frites. that’s french fries, to you and me. the porterhouse was incredible — it had been brined well and cooked to perfection, with a crispy exterior while still tender inside. and the fries were sensational, as only fries cooked twice and perfectly can be. the perfect combination of salt, heat, and grease. yummy. the wine was a great merlot.

dessert was good, but not great — a kind of ice cream cake with sliced bananas on top and chocolate sauce brushed underneath. it got better as the ice cream softened a bit. the dessert wine to accompany was of course very sweet and fruity, and i liked it quite a bit even though i’m not much for sweet wines. i remember it was from the south of france, but no more details than that.

espresso with a nice belgian chocolate finished the evening.

the service was very french — completely attentive and friendly in the way it should be. wait staff were personable, helpful, and witty but not obsequious and pushy. everyone knew their role and executed exactly as they should have. in fact, our waiter guided us away from a la carte and toward the prix fixe, even though the former would have been a bigger check for him. good thing we listened — the chef was transitioning from the winter menu to the spring menu next week, so our dishes were a sneak preview of the spring menu items. our food definitely drew attention from the many regulars sprinkled about.

in all, a great experience — all pluses and no minuses. we’ll be back.