Bonus points if you remember that D movie from the 80's.
No, didn't watch the movie this weekend, I went out Friday night to Raoul's Restaurant at 180 Prince Street.
As you know, I am not a huge fan of anything pretentious. Most of the bars or restaurants I will avoid if they come across as "the place to be" - i'm looking at you, The Madison. I don't mind fine restaurants or "cool" bars, I just hate the kind of places that don't make you feel welcome unless you are "important". The Madison will always have a dark place in my heart because they make people wait in line when there's no one in the bar. Who does that? But I have to say i'm impressed with what Andrew W.K. is trying to to. He's what I would be doing if I had a few million...make others happy, some money and not being a douche about it.
But I digress.
My brother was coming up to town, with his wife, and wanted to go out to dinner. They lived in NYC, on Duane Street, for 3 years, before moving out in 2002. It was really great to have a family member living in the city from 1999-2002, and I tagged along with them to try out many great restaurants and bars. Some were borderline when it comes to my snooty scale, but even I can't turn down trying places like Nobu.
K was coming up and already picked a place for us to eat - Raoul's Restaurant. I don't recall eating there, and he said it had the "best Steak au poivre ("pepper steak") in the city". I looked at the place online, checked out the menu and the prices and part of me inwardly groaned. But...he's family and sort of stubborn like I can be stubborn about certain things. So, I decided to just go with the flow.
I meet them at the Soho Grand around 8:30pm on Friday, with K giving me a "Yo" call from across the lobby. I inwardly chuckle, because to an outside observer, someone not from from Philly or New York, probably don't even understand what that translates to. "YO". Think about the colloquial nature of that greeting/attention phrase. Our family and friends grew up saying that. It was the classic phrase amongst my brother and myself, and it was just...pleasant to hear it again. Again, this is hard to describe, but I enjoyed hearing a friendly face say it.
I scampered up the steps, shook K's hand and then went to the bar to have a few drinks while we waited for his wife to join us.
The Soho Grand was "THE" hotel once, and still is nice...but it's showing its age. Sort of like that beautiful 20-something club girl that is now the...sort...of...over 30-something girl still trying to be the club girl. Still beautiful...but you see the wrinkles and spots showing up.
At a copper topped table, stained with old glass watermarks, near the bar we ordered a drink, and I started the night with a glass of Oban. I gotta say this for my scotch people...isn't this the most beautiful scotch you can buy? It is like silk. I love drinking it, just too bad it is $90 a bottle (although I did see a place in New York selling it for $70...but still.)
K and I chatted a bit. My old memories of our previous golf game from last year were a distant memory...you can get angry over stuff, but it's family...you let that go and move on.
That sort of reminds me of friendship. I think you can really tell who your friends are about how they react to disagreements. If you are really friends, you forgive and let things go. If you weren't meant to be friends, then you harbor that hatred or jealousy. K and I may get upset over each other, but a few months away and seeing each other again is a wonderful reunion...at least for the short term.
After A* joined us, we walked over to Prince Street.
Raoul's is a small, 40-50 seat bistro in the heart of the Soho at 180 Prince Street.
My fears of an overbearing, snobbish restaurant quickly washed away as soon as I entered. It was a great looking tavern, with a small 12 person bar, a few boots and tables packed into the approximately 1000 square foot space (no larger than many restaurants we have in Hoboken). It had pictures lining the walls of various eclectic designs and portraits. A beautiful tin ceiling, and a buzzing crowd and I just breathed in the scene.
The maitre d' was an older, tall guy who reminded me of Michael from Sobsey's Produce. He spoke to my brother for a few moments, offering us two different seats, a booth for 4 or a 6 top by the window.
Now those in the restaurant biz know...you usually don't give up a 6 top to three people, especially in prime real estate at the corner window seat.
No problem, they sat us down and the feast began.
Zinfandel? The horror!
No. I didn't, and he said "Trust me" and ordered a bottle.
Glad I did. The peppery zinfandel was a big hit, and we shared the artichoke appetizer with Raoul's vinaigrette. Really great, served cold (I may have preferred warm), but still a tasty treat to enjoy over wine.
My brother ordered the Steak au Poivre (with French Fries), I ordered the Rack of Lamb (with Roasted Asparagus, Spinach and Olive) and A* had the Seared Big Eye Tuna (with Cucumber Pousse Pied and Melon)
Oh. My. God.
Those are the only words that do justice to this meal. We all shared each other's dishes, and there weren't any leftovers. It was so good, I was already contemplating when I would return after our meal, when I saw someone walking towards the exit.
He looks familiar.
Where do I know...that's Ryan Gosling.
He was coming from the back of the restaurant, sitting in the booth behind the one we were first offered. That would have been an even more interesting blog posting, because I know I would have have some more interesting things to say. Suffice to say, looked like a regular guy. Taller than I expected. He had his trimmed beard and knitted skullcap rocking. I watched as he approached, but didn't linger long at looking at him...as anyone who lives in New York is quickly trained to do. We aren't the tourists who gush "OHMYGODITSRYANGOSLING!" and fawn.
But, I did just write a paragraph on him, so I guess i'm guilty in some regards for even writing about it. Bottom line is that I wasn't expecting to see anyone semi-famous and it was mildly amusing to see a "star" after finishing our meal and enjoying our port wine.
Oh..forgot that part. We concluded the meal with dessert (I had the Crème Brûlée and K & A shared Profiteroles), and port wine. They had a very tasty 20 year old tawny, but at $20 a glass, I wasn't going to have seconds when I can buy a bottle for $50.
The night ended on a 3rd bottle of Ridge Zinfandel, and many funny stories and chats with my family. It was early by the time we left the restaurant, only 11:30, and my walk back to the PATH and then into Hoboken by a few minutes after midnight.
A great night. Definitely a date place. Definitely not cheap, but if you are a bit more careful with what you buy (the 3 bottles of wine alone killed our bill), it's something that I can fit into my "treat yourself well" night. Last year I had the shore house at Bradley Beach, maybe this year i'll skip the shore house (I was approached recently to see if I wanted to re-join...i'm thinking about it...) and treat myself to some great NYC restaurants like Raoul's.
If there is ONE restaurant you need to try before you ever leave New York City...eat at Raoul's.