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Need the Best Brunch Suggestion

We arrive Sunday morning, so we would be eating between 11:30a and 2:00 pm. It can be anywhere in Midtown, East/West, Theatre District, UES or UWS, but only in these areas. Money is no object but there is one catch, or at least a preference: We prefer a menu that is a la carte, NOT a "choose one appetizer and entree" menu, and preferably a menu that serves lunch items as well as breakfast items.

We were thinking Aquavit, but the reviews aren't great. We thought about Norma's but the reviews killed it again. Ouest's menu doesn't thrill us. Please help. We leave in a week.

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  1. I don't know where you've read those reviews about Aquavit, but we went to there for the first time a few months ago and had a lunch that was absolutely sensational! And I have heard very good things about the Sunday smorgasbord. That said...

    Marseille, on the corner of 9th Av. & 44th St., serves very good French/Mediterranean cuisine in an attractive, bustling brasserie setting. The a la carte menu includes both breakfast and lunch items.

    http://www.marseillenyc.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      Fig & Olive is my absolute favorite - there are a few locations including one on the UES. Everything is delicious and savory but light. Completely unpretentious too.

      Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental hotel is also fantastic - get a corner table, and it's definitely the best publically available view in Manhattan - overlooks central park and columbus circle.

    2. grimaldi, i've been to aquavit numerous times and must say that their sunday brunch is one of my favorites in the city. it's an all you can eat smorgasborg, so keep in mind that you wouldn't be seeing standards like french toast or eggs and bacon. aquavit serves smoked herring, gravlax, swedish meatballs and the like.

      the negative reports i've come across generally relate to service issues. i've been pretty lucky with it (a few slow incidents at lunch, mostly). but these shouldn't come into play much at a buffet, either way.

      i dislike Norma's.

      other options you may want to look into:

      neptune room (uws)
      sarahbeth's (multiple locations, including on central park south and the uws)
      ouest (uws)

      p.s. kathryn is the brunch queen of nyc: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/445794

      many of the ones she reviews on that thread are within your geographic parameters. do a search for her name and "brunch" on this board and you'll come up with a lot of prior threads on the topic.

      7 Replies
      1. re: cimui

        Thanks for your quick replies. I will definitely investigate Marseille, Fig & Olive and Asiate. Ouest and Neptune Room seem a little too far north on the UWS. Of course we could always take a cab, but weather permitting we'd rather walk. Sarabeth's was a consideration but they were booked up for our times -- all locations.

        With regards to Aquavit, the bad reviews were mostly about the service. I have no problem with the menu -- in fact, it looks fantastic. Question: How strict is the dress code? If I were going for dinner I'd wear a suit or at the very least a jacket. For brunch, I'd rather not get that dressed up. So long as I'm not wearing jeans or sneakers, will I be okay or will they still throw a fit? What were others wearing when you dined there?

        1. re: grimaldi

          If you are not married to the a la carte option, I would look into Dovetail or Telepan, which are a little further south.

          1. re: kathryn

            Thanks, Kathryn. I read that other read with breakfast/brunch bests and it was mighty impressive. Telepan is out for brunch since we are going there one night for dinner. Dovetail looks very nice. If you had to choose one site, which would be your first and best choice of anyplace that has or has not been mentioned?

            1. re: grimaldi

              I actually have a strong attachment to Neptune Room since I stumbled upon their fantastic brunch eons ago, a little after they opened, and also because my fiance is in love with their french toast. It's creme brulee battered.

          2. re: grimaldi

            no one will throw a fit if you don't dress up! i wasn't even aware they had a dress code until you mentioned it, though i guess i haven't seen diners in jeans. open table mentions that the dining room is 'jackets preferred', but i've been there for dinner with male companions who did not wear jackets and no one seemed to bat an eye. i wouldn't worry about the dress code.

            any gender will do fine just wearing slacks with a polo shirt or sweater. i've been in a jersey-knit t-shirt dress and not felt out of place.

            i'm surprised about sarabeth's being fully booked. are you using opentable? most restaurants reserve tables that aren't listed in the open table system, too. i'd give them a call if that seems like a good option for you.

          3. re: cimui

            Thanks for the kind words, cimui, I am slowly working on transferring things to a Chow List.

            http://www.chow.com/lists/513

            1. re: cimui

              I finally tried Neptune Room after regular standards like Calle Ocho and Good Enough to Eat were at overflow capacity. I can easily say Neptune Room is the best brunch I've had on the UWS and not very far uptown at all. Everything from the freshly made rosemary bread with homemade cream cheese to my Southern Breakfast with a delicious white gravy was comforting and satisfying. Thanks for the recommendation!

            2. How about Cafe Boulud or Bar Boulud. I have never been disappointed by their brunch. I am particularly fond of Bar Boulud because of its large selection of charcuterie. They are both prix-fixe though

              1 Reply
              1. re: kobetobiko

                kobe,

                I agree about Cafe Boulud having an excellent brunch. When we had brunch there last December, the menu was a la carte. However, as you point, they've switched to a 2- or 3-course prix-fixe, which is why I didn't suggest it.

              2. if you are willing to take a 20 minute cab ride downtown try Little Giant on Orchard. Had brunch there this past weekend you will be in for a good surprise

                2 Replies
                1. re: ttzur

                  I think I've narrowed it down to Sarabeth's (we'll find a way in), The Neptune Room or Aquavit. Obviously there is a disparity between these choices as to whether we're in the mood for eggs and French toast, a seafood option, or a Swedish smorgasbord.

                  Cafe Boulud looked good as well but we're doing that for dinner one night. On our last trip we hit L'Atelier, Daniel, Le Bernardin and EMP. Before that we did some of the other top-shelf spots. This time we'll do Gramercy Tavern, Cafe Boulud, Jean Georges, Aquagrill and Telepan. I know these seem to be the trendy out-of-towner options but we've never been to any and I just want to knock them out once and for all. If anyone has other suggestions for any meal, I'd love to hear them. It's coming down to the wire.

                  1. re: grimaldi

                    we're also looking to do brunch during a visit from Philly in December. Just called the CPS location of Sarabeth's to try to make a reservation and it said they only take reservations for parties of 10 or more. yet, the website says they take reservations for all meals. you'd think they'd specify that's only for very large parties???

                    anyway, anyone have any insight into what the wait time might be like at that location around 11am on a sunday in mid-december?? when i called, they wouldn't really give me a straight answer other than to say the crowd starts to fizzle a bit after 12 or 12:30...

                    thanks!

                2. I love Essex.....cheap and sooo good!