Very Important Person

Last night Jessie - hottie, smartie, love of my life - invited me to be her plus-one for a staggeringly discounted dinner at BLT Prime, Laurent Tourondel's latest outpost of his BLT insta-branding venture. Unlike the other two BLT's out there, whose names - BLT Steak and BLT Fish - give you something of a sense of what to expect from the menu, Prime is a little bit of everything, with impressively good results. The menu is a fusion of those from Steak and Fish, with some extras - lamb and chicken, notably - that more or less serve to make the menu indicative of all the major Barnyard Animal Groups, and absolutely not somewhere you'd want to go if you're a crazy meat-hating vegetarian. Because Jessie is in with the ins, we were seated at 6:45 at one of the VIP tables - a corner banquette where the foot traffic wasn't too loud, and where we had a distractingly mouthwatering view of the dessert table (an idea I like in theory, but the dozen or so displayed cakes and sweet terrines reminded me un poco of the layout at a bar mitzvah). So now, permit me to indulge my inner foodie, and here comes a (horribly overanalyzed) play-by-play of our phenomenal meal.

We started off with cocktails. Jessie had something called "India in Mexico," which involved tequila somehow, and I had a guava mojito, which the bartender recommended as his favorite menu drink, and it truly was delicious, but all the fresh mint really overpowered the subtle flavor of the guava juice that was supposed to make this more than just your everyday mojito. While we were downing the hard stuff, our waiter came over and explained the layout of the menu: main dishes are broken up more or less by species, and there's a selection of sauces and gravies from which to choose. The chef encourages patrons to order one appetizer, one entree, and one side dish per person, with the apps and sides for sharing. We decided to indulge in Tourondel's encouragement, sent in for an order of tuna tartare and an order of beet-and-fresh-goat-cheese salad as our appetizers, a lamb T-bone and Dover Sole as our entrees (for which we left the sauce choices up to the kitchen), and, as a side, we ordered one. The one. Blue cheese tater tots. Yes, blue cheese tater tots. Seriously. Holy christ.

Almost immediately the maitre d' came over with an incredible selection of amuse-bouche - wooden plates with a selection of crudi (house-cured chorizo and salumi genovese, a terrifically spicy soppressata, velvety bresaola, and some speck that was probably great as far as speck goes, but I've never really been a fan), a small white bowl of marinated vegetables, a beautifully presented plate of blanched cherry tomatoes with basil oil and shaved parmigiano, and the restaurant's classic (can a 6-week-old restaurant claim to have a classic yet?) chicken liver paté served with country bread so crusty it threatened to inflict damage to the roof of my mouth.

The appetizers showed up at this point, both dishes delicate and artistically presented (as were the amuses). The tuna tartare was molded into a cube, with avocado at the bottom and a sprinkling of panko over the top layer, resting in a shallow pool of wasabi-soy sauce. Sad for me, wasabi is one of those things that I really just don't like, and as soon as we had our first bites of the tartare cube, the entire construction collapsed into the sauce. The beet salad, on the other hand, was perfection: fresh, tangy goat cheese was sandwiched between rounds of thinly-shaved marinated beets, making what were essentially ravioli, and was served with a peppery salad of baby cress, frisee, and shallot. Our waiter also brought over a basket of the BLT brand's famous garlic bread, elevated above your standard aluminum-foil-in-the-oven version by the inclusion of shallots and parsley in the garlic butter, and being served on pull-apart semolina rolls.

It took us a good hour to work our way through the amuses and the appetizers (not to mention a really good bottle of 2002 napa chardonnay), and by that time our entrees had probably been waiting for us for a while. Still, we were shocked by the amount of food laid down on the table for us: not only did we have the Dover Sole and lamb steak that we'd ordered, along with a heavy iron baking dish with eight gigantic tater tots oozing blue cheese (dear god was it ever good), but the kitchen had comped us a side of parmesan gnocchi (tossed in a buttery cream sauce and buried under a further pile of freshly shaved parmesan), and a terrine of roasted carrots that turned out to be, by far, the best aspect of the entire meal. You wouldn't think to order a side of carrots when you're out at a restaurant like this (that humble orange root seems a little too thanksgiving to really mesh with the muted wood, sueded banquettes, and hip-but-moneyed crowed), but my god was it an incredible dish. The lamb T-bone came with a peppercorn gravy that was subtle but a little too fruity (though the lamb itself was cooked perfectly - pink in the middle and spicy and charred on the outside), and the Dover Sole was just as mindblowing as every reveiw I've read has made it out to be. Dover Sole is a mainstay on stodgy white-tablecloth restaurant menus, but this version - narrowly filleted, crisp on the outside, meltingly soft on the inside, and served with a brown butter sauce spiked with lemons and capers - throws the captain of industry/ladies who lunch preconception out on its head. It was, in a word, yum.

After all that food (and still more wine!) we might have had enough. At that point, we could still move, we didn't feel our pants straining or our stomachs groaning. But in the spirit of adventure we decided to push it just a bit farther, and we ordered dessert. A hot-fudge sundae semi-freddo-ed with a shot of espresso and some crumbled toffee, topped with homemade whipped cream and cutely juxtaposed with a straight-from-the-jar maraschino cherry, this, finally pushed us over the edge. We couldn't finish it, and only had one of the hazelnut gelato petit-fours that came as a gastronomic sendoff along with the check. The (thank you, Jessie. Thank you thank you thank you) heavily discounted check.

We finally left at 10:45 - almost four hours to the minute after we sat down. According to a well-placed source, I hear that Barbra Streisand will be there tonight for dinner. I might have to go back.


Jessie said...

I feel oh-so-honored to have a "shoutout post" on your blog. Better yet, to be considered "in with the ins" is... well... new for me. Let's do it again sometime!

Harry Pussers said...

hi, could your next entry be tit-led, Jessie's Tittiz

~an anonymous cutie

HAR. PUS. said...