Friday, July 29, 2005

Le Madeleine

Taking advantage of being back in NYC, a few nights ago, the Boy and I went out to dinner and the theatre. (Or, rather, the theatre and dinner so we could enjoy our meal at a more leisurely pace rather than wolfing it down so as to get to the show on-time.) We saw Harvey Fierstein in Fiddler on the Roof, a revival that I cannot recommend enough. Fiddler has always been one of my favorite musicals and seeing it on Broadway, with such a talented actor was a delight. Fierstein carries the whole show and makes you laugh and cry, playing, singing and dancing the whole way through. The sets are beautiful, making Anatevka look like a town any of us would want to visit. There are stars twinkling in the background and Fierstein completely fills the Minskoff theatre's grand stage. He's only in it until mid-August, however, so if you have a chance, run and get tickets. They're selling fast.

After such an exciting night at the theatre, I was worried dinner wouldn't live up! Luckily, though, it did. We ate at Le Madeleine, a restaurant in the Theater District that's been around forever but that we've never gone to. It calls itself a "modern French Bistro," and it was, for New York standards. By that I mean we never forgot ourselves and thought we were in Paris, but it was good, creative French food and we enjoyed ourselves greatly.

The restaurant is quite dark and, at 10.15 at night, there was easily room for us even though I had made reservations. There's an outdoor garden, but we sat inside, in a small room. Surprisingly, however, even though there are a lot of tables, it doesn't feel crowded and we sat in a small private corner. The service was friendly and attentive (our water glasses were never left empty for long), but not overbearing.

Since it was so late, we didn't want to go for the full three-course prix-fixe. In fact, we were going to only get main dishes, but I had read about their mussels, one of their specialties, so we split an order as an appetizer. These Prince Edward Isle Mussels "Basquaise" were perhaps the best mussels we had ever had. They are cooked in a meaty tomato sauce, similar to a bolognaise, with chunks of spicy merguez sausage and saffron. It was really delicious; I would never have thought of adding meat to mussels. The mussels themselves were plump and sweet.

For main dishes, we were boring and both ordered the same thing, but we weren't disappointed. A Spice Crusted Duck Breast, it was meltingly tender, perfectly cooked to medium-rare so it was bright pink inside the dark spiced outside. I'm not sure what the spices were, but there was a significant bite to it. It was served with a little pile of spinach, and exquisite endive marmalade that I ate plain, only putting it on one piece of duck, and a savory dried fruit bread pudding. I was curious how a fruit bread pudding could be savory, but it was spicy and the dried fruit blended right in, adding a chewiness to the soft bread pudding.

We also had a half-bottle of an unmemorable Shiraz--the only bad part of the meal.

All in all, this was a delicious restaurant, one to which we will certainly return. My only problem? It seems a little gender-confused...

(Madeleine is a feminine word, meaning La, not Le.) And that's the French lesson for the day!

Le Madeleine
403 West 43rd Street
New York, NY

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