Thursday, June 22, 2006

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

photograph picture scrambled eggs and bacon at normas at le parker meridien hotel in new york city, not the best breakfast in new york

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.

photograph picture 3 eggs benedict at normas at le parker meridien hotel in new york city, not the best breakfast in new york

"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

| | | | | | |
Does Norma's, at Le Parker Meridien, really serve the Best Breakfast in New York?


  • At 22/6/06 10:31, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam,

    That's quite disappointing to hear. I was under the impression that Norma's was THE place to have breakfast/brunch/lunch in NY. Too bad!

    And I'm shocked that they didn't even acknowledge your birthday. I used Opentable for my reservations last year for my trip to San Francisco/Napa. I left several notes and in each case the restaurant had clearly paid attention. I was really impressed with Opentable.

    But it sounds like the service you were treated to wasn't quite as nice ... here's hoping the rest of your birthday was significantly better!

  • At 22/6/06 10:47, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    Given that fun service, I think I might've hit IHOP and brough in some Malibu to make cocktails with the $2 OJ! Well...maybe not, but at least I know what I'm getting into at dives :)

  • At 22/6/06 10:49, Blogger Ced said…

    Your BDay dinner was at WD50, right? Hopefully it more than made up for a lackluster start of the celebration.

    Did you consider returning the plate. A hard boiled poached egg seems like a very reasonable excuse.

  • At 22/6/06 12:33, Blogger Shelly said…

    Oh my very disappointing! I saw Matt Lauer on the Today show taste the $1000 Lobster Frittata. He said it was really good, but not $1000 good. It better have pixie dust on it for that!
    -Happy Birthday!

  • At 22/6/06 14:19, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't believe any restaurant should be taking credit card numbers at the time of reservation - especially for breakfast! I've always heard good things about Norma's, but haven't been there myself yet. Doesn't look like I'll be going any time soon.

  • At 22/6/06 14:30, Blogger sooishi said…

    Je trouve que la façon de faire est assez dérangeante... par rapport à la reservation, c est pas une chambre d'hôtel! c'est juste des oeufs brouillés ;)
    Merci pour cet article intéresant

  • At 22/6/06 18:32, Blogger Kate Croft said…

    Next time, for brunch on a weekend, try I Coppi in the East Village on 9th between 1st and A. FANTASTIC carbonara, and I also especially advocate the buttermilk panckaes with mascapone cream and strawberries. Amazing coffee, too, and mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ. Definitely my #1 brunch choice.

  • At 22/6/06 18:47, Blogger charles said…

    I hate it when a critic says its the greatest place on earth and you end up with a poke in the eye. I think zagats has gotten so big that they no longer understand or realy experience the food the recomend. I would like to see a website that has users rate the place and you can look at the reviews as you want to like yahoo movie reviews (hmmm maybe i should check and see if they have a food reveiw section).

  • At 23/6/06 05:31, Blogger Amy Sherman said…

    Never eaten there, though I certainly have heard of it. But I did want to let you know, when poached eggs come overcooked the best thing to do is send them back. I usually hate sending anything back but this is a perfect example of when it is entirely the right thing to do.

  • At 23/6/06 09:45, Blogger Unknown said…

    $1000? I could make it at home for gregariously cheaper price. Sorry you had such a bad experience Sam. I just went to a bad Thai place that was supposedly "upscale" but found hair in the lukewarm bland food.
    Heart goes out to ya' on this one. Better luck to you on your next selection.

  • At 24/6/06 15:02, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry you had such a bad experience. Norma's? I'm a NYer and I had never heard of it. Bad on me, I guess. I always thought the most famous/best breakfast in town was at Sylvia's. I remmeber loving the eggs benedict at Les Deux Gamins on West Fourth, but ti's beena few years. I can def. recommend Louie's for brunch on Amsterdam & 81st.

  • At 27/6/06 13:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for the warning, Norma's is not some place I will be going anywhere soon. With all of the other options in New York I certainly won't be jumping through their hoops!

  • At 28/6/06 06:11, Blogger Sam said…

    ivonne - i was a little disappointed too, but it wasnt all bad. I think it is good to warn people about a few things to be aware of like OJ oversell and no availability of alcohol.

    wmm - but we have ihop in SF, so no point to go to one in NYC?

    Ced - in retrospect yes, but at the time it was egg number three that was most over cooked, and by that time, i really vouldn't have handled a replacement plate. SO MUCH FOOD!

    Indy - or a least a glass of champagne on the side!

    Gerald - I am sure NY has better places to offer.

    ooishigal - Merci

    Kate - if i ever come to NY again, you can bet I'll be taking other brekkie recs! Thanks for the tips

    chales - you should really check out - I think that is the kind of thing you might be looking for from a restuarant review?.

    Amy - you are right - but i just didnt want another huge plate of food

    Garrett - well you win some, you lose some, don't you?

    Agnes - I am so glad real new yorkers havent heard of norma's!

    zhonghuarising - too right - and that is quite a few hoops!

  • At 20/2/08 12:37, Blogger Jules Mikheyeva said…

    Hey Sam, I have been to Norma's twice and it is my favorite breakfast/brunch place. I have never had the type of the service you described and im sorry that it, well, sucked for you.

    I have tried their Very Berry Brioche which is heavenscent and fluffy pancakes with bananas and berries which were also remarkable!
    Both times, the food was amazing for me (althought it was rather hard to get anyone's attention for anything)
    The Very Berry Brioche is 2 big pieces of sweet brioche bread that are baked with fresh berries between the 2 slices. All drizzled with maple syrup and MORE berries in sauce on top.
    Just wanted to add that the 2 times i have gone, the food was very good, though i've never tried anything other than that dish and the pancakes with fruit.


Post a Comment

<< Home