Does Norma's, at Le Parker Meridien, really serve the Best Breakfast in New York?
First Impression: "I am Sure NY Can do Much Better Than This"
Norma's: 118 W. 57th Street, Le Parker Meridien Hotel, New York, NY 10019, (212) 708-7460
It is clear that Norma's has its fans. I am not immediately one of them. I don't think it is totally 100% terrible either, I obviously made a bum choice, but there are a few things I think you need to be aware of if you are thinking of going there for one of their famous all day breakfasts.
When you call them to make a reservation, they bark at you "We only accept reservations via Opentable". Fine, I respond, I will do it that way then. No problem for me, I am not a foreign tourist who is unlikely to have an Opentable Account. I have my laptop with me and a WiFi connection so it's easy for me to quickly login and make the arrangements. I am a little unnerved by their credit card policy though. Be warned:
Norma's at Le Parker Meridien requests a credit card number to hold this reservation. Please make sure to cancel your reservation at least 24 hours in advance to avoid a $30. charge per person to your card. Please note we can only hold your table for 10 minutes past your reservation time. Please call ahead if you are running late. Thank you! There will be no charges by Norma's at Le Parker Meridien except in cases of a no-show, late cancellation, or required deposit per the restaurant's policy. Online cancellations are accepted before 5:00 pm [two days before your reservation].
Now, when you make a reservation via Opentable (a service I generally love and find extremely useful on a regular basis) there is a little box where you can add any notes for the restaurant. As it was the day of my 40th birthday I figured it would do no harm to mention the fact. Don't expect them to do anything with that information though, not even so much as a "Happy birthday" was muttered by the miserable Maitre D, when we arrived to take our place in the dining room, which was only a quarter full. On a weekday I am not even sure you need to worry about making a reservation at all.
"Would you like some orange juice?" the server asks as you are handed the closed menus. Hesitating slightly, because you haven't actually had a chance to explore other options just yet, you nonetheless agree because you assume it might be part of the deal. GOTCHA! Oh yes, they gotcha alright. You open up the menu and notice that the orange juice costs a whopping $7 a glass. At least it is good orange juice. Excellent orange juice, in fact, freshly squeezed and served at room temperature. Perfect. They even keep refilling your glass throughout the meal, so guzzle as much as you can to ensure you are getting good value for your money.
Another thing you need to be aware of is that Norma's doesn't serve any alcohol at all. Not even a mimosa. (That orange juice would make an excellent mimosa.) They have a Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata priced at $1000 on the menu, that they even go so far as to dare you to expense, but any fool who ordered it wouldn't even be able to wash it down with a glass of champers. Where the hell is the fun in that?
Ok, it's my 40th birthday and I am destined for a sober lunch. Not exactly what I had in mind. But I am a big girl now and I can handle it. But I am not a big enough girl to handle Norma's portion sizes. The dishes are obscenely enormous. From the menu, I am having a little trouble deciding between Norma's Eggs Benedict with asparagus and bacon served on pancakes or the Artychoked Benedict with Truffle Porcini Sauce. Our server raves about the latter so I decide to give it a shot.
There is only one thing worse than a plate of mediocre food, and that is a large plate of mediocre food. Three artichoke hearts, each crowned with a poached egg arrive swimming in a sea of creamy mushroom sauce dotted with little cubes of potato were positioned in front of me. A basket of toast and jam was left on the side of the table. Time to eat. Albeit very rich, the mushroom sauce was delicious, there is nothing I don't like about the combination of porcini and cream and the volume of porcini was generous. But the artichokes were unevenly cooked, one of them was so tough my knife couldn't cut it so it ended up as a reject on the side of my plate. The eggs, oh the eggs. I love poached eggs. I can take a great deal of pleasure from piercing a yolk then watching its glorious yellow run to form a golden pond on the bottom of my plate. Egg number one a little over cooked, only a 50% pool of yolk, egg number two, even more cooked, only a 25% yolk run, egg number three, totally hard boiled. What the heck? Not even the potatoes could save they day, they were as hard as bullets. Pah!
I turned to the basket of toast. Toast, hum. I think the bread might actually have seen the toaster before running a mile in the other direction for fear of actually being toasted. By the time it arrived chez nous it was looking a little pale and wane. Thank heaven for the jam. They saved the day. There were two jams and they were both excellent. Really excellent. Especially the one that tasted like peach with a hint of almond. "Is this peach and almond jam", I asked the Maitre D as he passed by my table. He didn't have the foggiest. He tried to make something up but he really didn't know what he was talking about. I hate it when the staff are clueless about the food they are serving, especially in a place that purports to be kind of fancy.
To be fair on old Norma, whoever she is, Fred loved his simple scrambled eggs with bacon and home fries. His potatoes were not only cooked properly, they tasted good too. I wish I'd had what he had. Oh well.
Norma's is one of those places that leaves a questionnaire with the check. You know the kind of thing: Blah, blah, blah... how the opionions of the customers are of the utmost importance and what can we possibly do to improve, etc. So I filled it in like a good girl. I told them, just like I told you, why I was disappointed about some aspects of my meal, ie it wasn't even cooked properly. You might think they would have taken the opportunity to apologize to me or make ammends, but oh no. I haven't heard a thing back from them. I don't think they really care one jot. Apparently Zagat says they do the best breakfast in new York and so perhaps they actually believe it too.
PS - Since the service at Norma's was markedly lacklustre, they did not make it into my recent piece about how wonderful we generally found the service to be at dining establishments in New York City.
|Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Tartine, Coronado, San Diego|
Food | Dining | New York | Restaurants breakfast | Brunch | Norma's | Le Meridien | Hotel Does Norma's, at Le Parker Meridien, really serve the Best Breakfast in New York?