Up All Night, Uptown: French Roast

I do not think that people go to French Roast for the food, though it is quite a delight- day or night.  I have been there on holidays, in the wee hours of the morning, past midnight, for brunch, and around dinner over the span of a decade, and the food is, generally, delicious. Still, I think that Upper West Siders and travelers, alike, drop in for the name: French and Roast sound like “French” and “up all night” and “coffee” and “herb-crusted meat.” And then, again, there’s more.

The place has a feel of never-endingness- a dark, underworld that is fortunate enough to be located on a sunny corner in Manhattan. In this place, diners can be jolly or quiet, talk to neighbors or pretend not to hear them- anything goes, except insult. If you think this account is too romantic, go see for yourself: there are the young, the somewhat older, and the very old; the artists, the writers writing, the suits and the housewives; some are stuffy and others get a kick out of them- and everyone eats, drinks, and, at one point or another, will be defined by the waiters as one who tips or one who assumes they can do well without their money (because these guys and gals work such long shifts, the place being open 24/7, and all…). That is the place and here are some dishes you will definitely want to try:

1- OVERNIGHT/DINNER- Steak au poivre, a plate of peppery cream sauce drenched red meat. I have nothing more to say because a plate of meat that gets a mention on a top-five-things-you-should-eat-at-this-place list speaks for itself.

2- OVERNIGHT- Lamb sliders with fries: so juicy and flavor-filled! You get 3. The fries are crunchy and crispy, somehow without feel too greasy. If you ask, they’ll give you mustard for them, of course.

3- DINNER- Pumpkin ravioli: the buttery, sage sauce, the sweet, edgy richness of the ravioli filling, and, of all things, the cheese: this is a definite grown-up comfort food. It is creamy, somewhat exotic, warm, and inviting. It is the thing your eyes will go to, wonder about, skip over, then come back to, and when they do, you should seriously consider ordering it.

4- BRUNCH- Polenta with brie, eggs, and asparagus: Vegetable: check. Protein: check. Dairy: check. Grains: check. The yum factor in this dish is high, with all necessary food groups present and all textures well-matched (salty, creamy, astringent, and pungent all at once).

5- DESSERT- Apple almond brioche bread pudding: Accompanied by amaretto-whipped cream, this bread pudding is just the right texture- eggy but not runny and firm, but not stiff. The flavors blend nicely to the tooth, and it isn’t some huge portion that will catch up with your future self. Served warm, with fresh cream and a spoon, you will definitely enjoy this confection to the last crumb/drop/bite.

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