Majorelle: Bienvenue à New York
It was a night to celebrate, so we took ourselves off to Majorelle, which opened in March in The Lowell Hotel on the Upper East Side. Charles Masson, who for 40 years stood at the helm of his family’s old-style French restaurant, La Grenouille, has launched this dazzling new French with Moroccan touches in the space previously occupied by The Post House, an old-line steakhouse.
The name, Majorelle, is an homage to Yves Saint Laurent’s fabulous gardens in Marrakesh, created by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. Reason enough that when you enter the restaurant you enter through a swanky bar named 'Jacques.’ Were Monsieur Jacques to visit his namesake, I suspect he would be delighted.
Majorelle, with its plush banquettes, stunning floral arrangements, egg-and-dart moldings and patterned marble floors is elegant, intimate and relaxing. A place where you can have a conversation—so unlike the brassy high decibel restaurants that have dominated the New York dining scene for the last decade. There is also a sky-lit garden room with towering plants and flowers open year-round. Some say the garden tables are the best seats in the house, others say the garden chairs are uncomfortable.
At Majorelle, it’s possible to think you’re in Paris. When we visited, the male diners wore dark suits, white shirts and ties. Is the white shirt for men making a comeback in the US? Is dressing for dinner? For me, the dining room evoked memories of one at the Windsor-Reynolds hotel in the '60s—a hotel near the Champs-Élysées where TWA billeted its crews.
That said, no dining room in Paris in the '60s was anywhere near as beautiful as Majorelle. At that point in time, Paris was slowly recovering from World War Two, and fashion-conscious young women were a rarity along the rues and boulevards. Indeed, it was a time when a flight attendant's uniform designed by Oleg Cassini would turn heads up and down the Champs.
But those were the glory days of aviation, when an airline hostess from the US could be wined and dined by a count from Brussels or a business tycoon from Paris.
For starters the evening at Majorelle, I had the creamy saffron rice with lobster, my companion the oysters on endive. Both were top-notch. (Excuse the shadows on the plates; I was trying to be discreet when shooting). As a main course, the lamb chops Provençale—juicy, rare and fragrant with rosemary—did not disappoint, nor did the duck magret, decked with oranges and accompanied by wild rice. Talk about two happy campers!
For dessert, though the soufflés at a nearby table looked divine, he elected the mousse au chocolat with a Grand Marnier sauce. And She? She explained to the lovely server, Juliana, that she “wasn’t much for desserts," who then suggested the “soupe de fruits rouges,” a fruity berry soup topped with vanilla ice cream. See for yourself. It was heavenly; a perfect coda to a perfect meal.
If I usually pass on dessert, not so on great breads and French butter. The incredible dinner rolls—crusty, dense, tangy—are baked daily by the pastry chef David Carmichael formerly of Le Bernardin and Daniel. To repeat a quote attributed to Mr. Masson, the madeleines made by Carmichael “would make Proust weep.”
The staff under the tutelage of Mr. Masson was welcoming, friendly and efficient. No up-turned noses. In charge of the kitchen, after a number of changes, is Richard Brower. We offer kudos, wish him well!
But that perfect meal will cost you! The dinner menu is prix-fixe $110, but after three courses and three glasses of wine, the bill came to a hefty $396 with tax and tip. When I read in the Times the following morning that to say Hello! to Hello, Dolly on Broadway, could cost you $1,000, Majorelle felt like a great value, if not a bargain. Dining in New York is the best theater in town and the settings are beyond compare.
Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you next week when I'll have the coffee brewing... Jusqu'à ce que nous nous retrouvions... Until we meet again, may life be good to you.