Sunday, May 04, 2008

Artisanal: A Murray Hill Gem

Andre’s Brunch Tour Continues… with Cheese

For years I’ve loved the charm of the Murray Hill area of Manhattan, in an almost jealous way. I guess it’s been a question of just who lives there…. and I’ve always looked at the neighborhood in two ways. First….. where the hell is everyone? And second, where the hell did all of these people come from?

Regardless of my musings, the neighborhood has its share of great restaurants, and for my money Artisanal is one of them.

First, for those of you who love walking into authentic Parisian bistros, you are in luck. The room screams Paris, with cozy banquettes, tiled floors and warmly lit glass globes. Thankfully, there is plenty of elbow room here…. An attribute that comes in handy when your table runneth over with cheese.

Speaking of cheese, this is somewhat of a cheese Mecca. It’s like Murray’s, with a restaurant attached. Even for those of us who know our cheese, the well crafted menu can be overwhelming, so do what I did…. solicit help.

The other thing that leaps out at you is the massive wine list that offers every selection by the glass. Fairly priced, there is something here for everyone…. you’ll approve.

My Saturday afternoon visit was one of bliss, as my “brunch tour” of Manhattan continues… and if you are like me and enjoy mixing sweet and savory tastes around 1:00pm on a lazy Saturday, you are in luck.

The menu includes a few items you might expect…. oysters and clams, salads, snails, soups, omlettes and sandwiches…. but throw in a pot of rich, hot fondue with bread cubes, air-dried beef, fingerling potatoes, kielbasa, beef tips and apples… and well, now you’re talking.

If you’re looking for something heartier, you can opt for a plate of soft scrambled eggs with hanger steak, a shallow skillet of decadent macaroni and cheese, a spring vegetable risotto or a pulled Berkshire pork sandwich. Of course those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed with the almond croissant French toast.

So the Fork New York verdict?

Me likey. I found the place fun and delicious, and priced fairly for a restaurant of this quality. The cheese is pricey, but pulling in this amount of artisan fare isn’t a cheap proposition, so I can’t slam them for it. I’d advise going easy on the cheese and heavy on the plate fare if budget is a concern. There are also lunch and brunch prix fixe deals which are good buys.

These guys are easy to find (right off of Park Avenue on 32nd), and offer reservations on Open Table. I’d suggest you throw on a beret and get over there.