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Image may be everything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fiddle with it when necessary. Italian food didn’t match the decor and it certainly didn’t match the image of designer Ralph Lauren’s clothing, but Italian was Ralph Lauren’s favorite food and that was that.
Until about a year ago, that is, when the Gibsons restaurant people were brought in to manage the place and began, gradually, to set things right.
The look hasn’t changed a bit; there’s still an abundance of leather on the butter soft banquettes and wide chairs, rich wood wainscoting on the walls and a gallery’s worth of framed prints and photographs. It’s a look that pretty much defines clubby, and that goes double for the front bar, with its plush chairs and fireplace.
What has changed, completely, is the menu. Out are the Italian specialties, the penne Sette Mezzo (good as it was); in are straightforward American dishes with enough retro touches (flaming steak Diane, Waldorf salad) to make the selection distinctive.
“These are things that won’t surprise you, dishes that you know,” says chef Isaac Holzwarth. “We like to say the customer is comfortable with the menu because the customer wrote the menu.”
That being the case, my hat goes off to the customer who put the crabcakes on the menu. You might blanch, as I did initially, at the prospect of a $29 crabcake entree, but what arrives on the plate are two veritable doorstops of crab, 14 aggregate ounces tossed with enough toasted brioche breadcrumbs to hold them together and served over an avocado remoulade. For those who need more crab than appetizer cakes provide, this is your dish.
Also impressive in size are seared scallops, six meaty ones that surround a vegetable parfait of layered cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions and capers, topped with a thick cloud of whipped cream incorporating a dash of golden balsamic vinegar. It’s a tasty little arrangement that’s almost good enough to upstage the scallops.
Steaks, which have the same supplier and specifications as Gibsons, are first rate; I especially like the filet Rossini, a rich, thick filet mignon topped with a melt in your mouth slab of foie gras, surrounded by a port wine and truffle reduction.
Starters include a simple but delicious goat cheese tart with caramelized onions,
and an excellent hand cut steak tartare, which has firmer texture than most.
Fresh oysters are a daily feature. On one visit the oysters were scrawny and unappealing, and we sent them back (they were replaced, after many apologies, with a couple of dinosaur sized chilled prawns). On a follow up visit the oysters were gorgeous, with pristine flavor, and served with a frozen shallot vinaigrette, chopped into fine crystals. If, like me, you prefer oysters cold enough to make your teeth ache, you’ll appreciate this touch.
The lunch menu is a scaled down version of the evening offerings, augmented by a handful of appealing sandwiches, including a lobster club with smoked bacon and truffled mayonnaise. The RL burger is a keeper, served on a challah bun, and I particularly like the grilled ribeye sandwich, topped with bleu cheese and arugula.
Desserts include two more continental creations crepes Suzette and bananas Foster, both prepared tableside along with cheesecake, sorbets and a banana split. What wowed me, however, was the Key lime pie, with a crust made from crumbled ginger snaps, giving the pie a gentle, offbeat accent.
RL’s service has always been outstanding, in my experience, and it remains so.
Not that she intended to insult Dana’s other operations; in fact, I believe she’s a fan. But most Rosebuds fit a certain type. They’re big. They’re noisy. They feature copious quantities of Italian food at generally modest prices. And despite their just plain folks atmosphere and uncomplicated menus, the restaurants seem to draw an extravagantly dressed, trend conscious clientele in such numbers that even a confirmed reservation means you will wait, sometimes quite a spell, for a table.
What a difference an address makes. , tucked into a quiet stretch of Walton Place, is a low key, eminently civilized place. Attentive,
tuxedoed servers have time to talk to you. And the food straightforward steaks and chops with a few nods toward Rosebud’s Italian roots is pretty good too.