At the edge of night, there is a virtual changing of the guard in the city. As restaurant kitchens close, the hoi poloi go home to catch the news, pay the babysitter and hit the sack, oblivious to the fact that an entire population has just come out of the shower, done their hair, dressed themselves in casual disarray and stepped out for a nocturnal prowl.
What's it all about? I invite my two amigos, Natalie and Adam, on a Friday night downtown-club crawl. The focus in these night spots, they
're quick to point out, is not on the food.
If there is a formula for success, this year, Brant House has got it pegged. Come early for dinner, they'll hold the reservation for fifteen minutes only, and avoid paying a cover charge and standing in line later, with no guarantee of making it past the platoon of black clothed security guards. I have seen bravado and self esteem shattered by velvet rope chill.
Clearly, this is not just another barn-size trendatorium, Clever lighting and lots of candles have made vast and empty look cozy and sexy. The perfect ground for easy-going, middle of the road social intercourse. Money has been spent. The look is model-suite. Giant TV screens show a South Africa travelogue. Neat rows of communal tables, bar-height and tushy-view, fill the room and evoke an image of an upmarket campus cafeteria. Upholstered "bottle service" or VIP booths ]hug the walls. Most are already filled, even at this early hour, but there are still a few seats available at the two bars.
Underscoring the implicit knowledge that all tables will be moved off the floor for dancing at 10:30, dinner service is efficient, deft and pleasant. A food stylist has been at work here, arranging cold soba noodles just so, lining up sliced duck breast in a boat shaped plate, fluffing up edible garnish greens. It's all picture perfect.
But tragedy has befallen the Kobe beef pot stickers. A series of make-ahead culinary procedures has rendered them dry as dust. Never mind. I'm happy enough with the sushi rice pizza topped with seared tuna and flying fish roe. Rice wine marinated flat iron steak looks great, arranged in overlapping layers, but one mouthful tells me this beef is, to put it politely, over-aged. The unmistakable iron-like taste prompts me to question our server. "We got the meat two days ago and it's been marinating for one day," he says, defending the dish.
"It's more display than gourmet,"Natalie reminds me. and points out the abundance of candles, good-looking bar tenders, a well dressed crowd, and a good music mix. That's the formula. This year. Cannily, they have restrained the kitchen from over reaching. Two cutie-pies at our communal table share what they call "a really cool dish:" French fries and salad.
I'm out of here.