A $330 sweaty Sunday brunch
It was a hot Sunday. At a sticky and humid 87 degrees, it may have been too sultry for a trip to the trendy Meatpacking District, but a girls’ brunch was long overdue. I braved the subway and the long walk West to Ninth Avenue, arriving at Pastís just after 3pm. When I entered the restaurant with my three companions, it didn’t feel cool, but I figured that my body temperature was slightly elevated, and after a cold glass of water and a ten-minute sit down, the beading on my forehead would cease. I was wrong.
“Is it warm in here, or is it me?”
The ladies were unanimous — it definitely wasn’t me.
A server instantly brought a bottle of New York tap water to our table, and it wasn’t cold. “Could I have ice please?” At this point, I was already feeling high-maintenance, and I hadn’t even perused the menu yet.
I’m a Keith McNally fan. I adore Balthazar. Who doesn’t? And Morandi is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I’ve been to both for dinner, and the latter for brunch also. Neither of these hotspots is inexpensive, but I’ve never left feeling my meal was overpriced for the quality of the food or for the total dining experience. I knew that Pastís didn’t come cheap either, but I’d expected this classic French bistro to be comparable to his other ventures.
After the four of us chatted for about fifteen minutes, our colorful brunch cocktails arrived–a Bloody Marie with extra horseradish, two low-cholesterol Gin Fizzes complete with egg whites, and mine — a “La Vie En Rose”—a small amount of champagne and a large amount of rose water. Again, it wasn’t cold, but it was tasty.
By this time, all four of us were sweating. Did our mid-forties pre-menopausal age group contribute to our inability to “chill out?” I’d thought so, but then a gentleman in his sixties sat down at the table next to ours and complained about the temperature. My friend Maria exclaimed, “He said that he’s hot,” she casually made a motion toward the man, “And he’s definitely NOT pre-menopausal.”
We laughed at our wilted blowouts, runny eye make-up, and the steep prices that seemed like a joke — $23 for scrambled eggs and smoked salmon? Of course, those were organic and came with potatoes. But $18 for the croissant and muffin basket — that’s a really high price for belly fat. We skipped that altogether. I rationalized. “Why not try the $14 bowl of granola instead?” Truth be told, we’d looked at the menu when we made the reservation. The prices were no surprise.
Thinking if I ate less, I’d stay cooler, I decided to keep things light and order the Chicken Paillard. My plate arrived with the smallest grilled chicken salad that I’d seen since relocating to New York City. And sad to say, it was good, but at $24, it was $8 too much. Heather ordered a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak and we shared. Without her accompanying French fries, I would’ve left hungrier than when I arrived 2 hours earlier. Sigh. The food was good, but it wasn’t “all that.” Although room temperature like the other beverages, the wine tasted great.
Our lovely, cute teenage-looking server had to be hotter than we were in long pants and a collared shirt. She asked management about the air conditioning more than once, which obviously was in disrepair, and returned each time with a look of uncertainty and no resolution.
One more round of cocktails and another bottle of lukewarm water later, we paid the bill and left the partially empty, yet still sweltering place. When we stepped outside, we felt cooler than we did minutes earlier. But I was still slightly annoyed.
As I walked out of Pastís on Sunday, had I not been wearing a cloud of roses around my brain (think “La Vie En Rose” and Cotes de Provênce Rosé), and in the company of friends, I’d have probably marched my sweaty butt back in and vented to the manager. It would’ve gone something like this.
“I understand this is a popular place for brunch, but I expected more. If you want to charge $23.00 for eggs, not only should those eggs be the best in the Western Hemisphere, but they should also be served in a cool, comfortable location with a functional air conditioner, or at least a ceiling fan on high. That $24 Paillard better be crisp with no char on the chicken. The drinks should be chilled, and ice should be available with tap water if requested, even if it’s not European. And if your air conditioning is on the fritz, you’d better start calling your reservations first thing so they have the option of making other plans.”
$330 is a heck of a lot for brunch, especially when we could’ve sweated outside for nothing. Will I return to Pastís? I’m undecided. If I do, I’ll try dinner, and it will be in February.