Saturday, July 12, 2008
Bloomingdale's diner is the perfect spot for ladies who lunch. 59th & Lex appears upon first glance to be only a glorified coffee bar for a quick break from the 40% off sale. This little diner is actually so much more than your typical department store lunch counter. The sandwiches and salads are delicious and the service is sheer perfection. These ladies would expect nothing less. Named after the corner on which the original Bloomingdales stands, the name 59th & Lex has been known to confuse friends from New York. The primary fare is just what you would expect for the properly manicured - light lunches and sinfully rich desserts. Just because you're watching your waistline, it doesn't mean you can't splurge once in awhile right? After all, it is a special occasion. It's always a special occasion when you just got your hair done.
The mango chicken salad is crisp, refreshing and filling. Goat cheese and mango are an unusual combination, but really work. Although pecans would make more sense with the fruity, creamy dressing, the walnuts do pair naturally with the goat cheese. The salad jumped the shark with the addition of sundried tomatoes. It was flavorful and acidic enough already.
A tuna salad sandwich is one of those simple dishes that is somehow often screwed up. The tuna at 59th and Lex is never screwed up. It is cool, lightly seasoned, and does not betray its true fish nature. The tomato is ripe and the lettuce is Romaine. All is as it should be. It is kind of strange that on this visit they brought half sourdough and half white bread. Maybe they serve so many soup/salad combos that they make sandwich halves in an assembly line. Or maybe the waiter forgot to ask what bread we wanted and didn't want to have to deal with the crazy girls in the corner again. The fries are usually very good, but on this occasion, at least half were disappointingly limp.
The shrimp bisque is rich and creamy, but lacks seasoning. Something like a litle curry powder or saffron would give it character. The french bread is soft with a nice crust and it is difficult to resist eating the entire plate
For years I have been confusing waiters with bizarre behavior like ordering too much food and picking at it in order to write reviews. On one visit, my friend and I talked over each other, asked the waiter questions, discussed our options, then shut our menus with finality. The waiter looked down at our expectant faces and held his pencil poised over the notepad, "Are you ready to order?" We blinked at eachother, "We just did." After repeating the order twice, soon our table was overflowing with plates that jutted out over the edge. The waiter said, "Your Chinese chicken salad will be right up." I looked at the already crowded table in panic, "We ordered a Chinese chicken salad???" A smile crept over his face and I realized he had totally punked me. Good one.
59th and Lex is known for its fish and chips. One recent lunch hour, when a distressed diner wailed over the specials page, "What? No fish today?" and the waiter replied, "Yes, we have salmon" I could tell he was new. The cod is surprisingly unfishlike, and the batter is light yet crispy.
Another reason I love this diner is that they have this little corner nook that is often vacant, so you can hide and do weird things like pose your food for the best lighting. The banquette beneath the slatted wall pitches forward a little, so unless you feel the need to be ergonomic, sit against the solid wall
The cheesecake was fresher and more moist than the chocolate cake that day. It had a smooth, creamy texture, but was not "real" New York cheesecake, which I find to be kind of dry and powdery compared to West coast cheesecake (Ain't no cheesecake like a west coast cheesecake cause a west coast cheesecake don't STOP!).
I lusted after these shiny lily pad serving dishes, but they were ridiculously expensive. I still want them. Maybe I will register for them the next time I get married.
The ladies who lunch and their perfect coiffures