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The best table in the house
First, a diversion. Sunday lunch is such a good meal, isn't it? I wish it were something Americans practiced more regularly. I'd pick it over Sunday dinner in a second. It does seem like the right way to do it is with family, or at least someone else's family. You could do it up at home, or you could go to a restaurant (my preference, of course). There could be wine, but there doesn't have to be. Dessert is not optional.
It's something I don't do much, but I did do it last week. On the Upper East Side. In a sunken restaurant below a reputable art institution, with architecture that's a distraction in the best sense. Even if you've been in this building hundreds of times, you'll still catch yourself staring at your surroundings, picking up on new details. It's a marvel, really.
Now to the matter at hand. As I'm walking down into the restaurant, taking it all in, I spot my parents on the far end of the room, tucked into a corner booth that anchors the room. They notice me immediately because from where they sit they can see it all: the staircase from which you enter, the bar, every table in the room. My dad shoots a hand up and waves excitedly. I smile. I couldn't help but take a picture of them as I approached our table. They were like the king and queen of the restaurant.
I climbed in next to my mom. "Best table in the house, huh?"
"Totally," she replied.
My dad was concerned that once my sister arrived, she'd want to sit in the booth too, and wondered whether he should move to the chair opposite of him, which faced the wall. Fair point. The three of us were at the moment winning.
I didn't need another coffee, but I asked for one anyway because I wanted it all. (In retrospect, I should've ordered it after the meal, but oh well.) I wanted every pastry that the waitress described as part of the daily offerings—the savory scone layered with chunks of gruyère and zucchini, the sticky bun spiked with black cardamom, the "greens pie" with a few different kinds of greens, one of which was dandelion. (The pastry chef here is very talented.) I wanted all of the raw bar stuff, too. I would've happily ordered the seafood platter (and yes, with the Imperial caviar supplement), but we stuck to a few orders of red shrimp with sea urchin and nori. We had many delicious things (delicate, beige-pink lobster and crab dumplings in a cold, lip-smacking yuzu broth were a highlight, as was a technicolor citrus and celeriac salad sprinkled with hazelnuts), and we shared them all.
And the dessert? It was crème brûlée. Remember: this is Sunday lunch, uptown. There was something in it, and I'm not entirely sure what. Vanilla bean, I think, but also a touch of something like matcha or black sesame. If anyone knows the answer here, please let me know! It was easily the best I've had, and I think that I would've felt the same way if it was served to me in a downtown restaurant after dinner, where I was seated at a table that was just fine. But hey, maybe it had a little bit to do with that fact that it was Sunday lunch and I was sitting at the best table in the house.
945 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10012
Question: Is what I described here without a doubt the best table in the house, or is this a matter of opinion? I'm curious to know if anyone has certain rules for determining it, or thinks it sits not at the focal point of a restaurant, but rather somewhere else.