Sunday, October 21, 2007


1409 York Ave (75th St)

This is not your father’s restaurant. Rather, it is your six-year-old nephew’s restaurant. Why else would the menu be covered in plastic, but to protect it against spilled juice? On the backside, beneath the plastic, is a cautionary image of a burlap surface with a splotch of sauce on it. You see? Saucy is telling us. This is what happens when you don’t cover your menus in plastic. The restaurant was also almost unbearably hot inside; apparently underage restaurateurs are most comfortable in womblike conditions. Junior also must have picked out the decorations, suspending burlap sacks full of “spices” from the ceiling in a Plexiglas® case. He did a nice job for a first-grader, to be sure, but what were supposed to look like heaping quantities of the various herbs and powders (which spice is Crayola crayon Orchid-colored again?) were clearly thin layers glued onto dome shapes inside the sacks.

It is a fact of American culture that the playground set is sadly lacking on the viticultural front. When we asked for the wine list, our waiter told us they were “still working on it,” but on our request, listed several types of red wine available by the glass. We ordered a glass of Pinot Noir, and he returned shortly after to tell us that not only did they not have Pinot available, but he “couldn’t find the bartender.” He brought us two bottles of red from which to taste, and said they were a Merlot and a Spanish wine. I asked him what kind of Spanish wine it was, and he examined the label and said that it was a “vino tinto.” Know what that means? Red wine. Period. We ordered the Merlot.

I started my meal with the lobster cake with mixed grilled mushrooms. The mushrooms must have been hiding out with the bartender, because I never found them on my plate. My first bite contained lobster shell, and while I appreciate the chef’s looking after my calcium intake, I would have settled for some mushrooms. The lobster was chewy, and the tomatoey broth in which it sat was decent, but not enough so to redeem the rest of the dish. The Caesar salad was underdressed (how embarrassing!) and, frankly, boring.

The main course portion of the menu consists of a list of 47 sauces, set up as a sort of checklist. Next to each sauce’s name and description is indicated on which of organic chicken breast, pasta, or beef that sauce is offered. Cute concept, right? I thought the “Turquoise” sauce sounded especially unappetizing; can you think of any naturally occurring foodstuffs that are turquoise in color? “Pesto cream sauce” (its true identity) sounds innocuous enough—appealing, even—but turquoise? Why not gravel? My brave companion threw caution windward and ordered penne with turquoise sauce, which turned out to be unremarkable, but at least no semiprecious stones were harmed in its creation. I had the chicken paillard (breast meat pounded thin) with Crimson sauce, which consisted of caramelized fresh pears, beef stock, and red wine. The paillard, unfortunately, bore a creepy resemblance to a flattened brain and the sauce was sweet, but that was about it.

Remember the moppet who was in charge of menus and décor? He must also have been put on side-dish selection detail, because the list seems to have been assembled with an eye to avoiding strong flavors that might offend the immature palate: baked potato chips, french fries, white basmati rice, wild rice, string beans, steamed broccoli, steamed asparagus & corn, and baked yams. We ordered the string beans and the asparagus, which were bone dry, and we were only about 60% sure they hadn’t been freshly picked from our grocer’s freezer. Tell me, O Great Namer of Restaurants, WHERE’S THE SAUCE?

It’s rarely a good sign when you order dessert and its presentation makes you laugh. Our Chocolate Terrine appeared to be a slice of Jell-o® Pudding Pop off to the side of the plate with a small puddle of sauce next to it. To its credit, this was the best fudge pop either of us had ever had. I bet that, of all the desserts on offer, Junior put the most energy into the “Ice Cream Rainbow”—but that’s just a guess. Maybe next time.

A quick peek at a dictionary defines the word “saucy” as “impertinent and disrespectful.” Indeed, the prices we paid for the food we ate could be characterized precisely thus. My companion admitted that the highlight of his meal was going outside to feed the parking meter. Please, if you make it to Saucy, do tip your servers well; they may soon be out of a job.

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