Delmonico’s – New York


I have a “thing” for eating in the oldest restaurants I can find. In London last spring, it was Rules. Since I am New York, despite friends’ attempts to dissuade me, it is Domenico’s, open since 1837. I remember the restaurant being specifically mentioned in movie, Life With Father; when Elizabeth Taylor visits the family, Irene Dunne insists that father, William Powell, take them to Domenico’s. And then there is The Epicurean, the cookbook written by Domenico’s’ chef, Charles Ranhofer, in the late 1800s. I have a copy and adore all 1183 pages, 800 illustrations, and over 3000 recipes. So how could I not eat here???

I would like to think that in its hey-day, the interior would be far more elegant and refined. Not that it was necessarily slouchy, just not as elegant as I anticipated it would be. Jerry and I had decided we were going to order the “classic” dishes; those with the historical pedigree. While perusing the menu, we had martinis. Outside of the classics, the only dish we ordered that was probably not historical was a salad of watercress, Maytag blue cheese, bacon, and some minimal garnish of wine-poached pears, candied walnuts, and walnut raisin toast. The watercress was fresh but the salad was obviously over dressed.

Of the historical dishes, Jerry ordered the “Classic” Delmonico Steak — 20 ounces of wet-aged prime boneless rib eye served with fried onions. The steak was fabulous but the onions were very cold. In honor of my mother, I had to order what would have been her favorite, the Lobster Thermidor. There was no way to prepare for the amazing presentation of this dish; two lobster tails, four small claws topped with caviar, and a single head placed vertically in the center, all surrounded with a redolently decadent Brandy cream sauce. Two additional sides were ordered, black truffled mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. But it was that lobster which blew us away.

Of course the final classic Ranhofer recipe which was a must-try was Baked Alaska. Oddly, I remember Baked Alaska as being a big 1970s dessert and I can’t recall any occasion in the past 30 years that I’ve had it. This version was not bad, banana candy ice cream molded atop a Turkish apricot compote and beautifully surrounded with meringue.

Unlike the service at Rules — or even another classic, Los Angeles’ Musso & Franks — here at Domenico’s it was perfunctory and cold. We sat for several minutes with our menus closed before there was even a chance to order our martinis. Even at that point, I had to ask for a wine list for our entrées. But I will remember that lobster for a long, long time…
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