130 West 44th Street, New York, NY
212.997.5262 (reservation made through Open Table)
Sunday, January 9th, 2011
Happy 2011! Happy Birthday Kenny! January 9th is doubly special for this reason, and it was a windy and cold Sunday to celebrate. And celebrate we did: brunch at ABC Kitchen with friends (yummy Kobocha squash puree on toast), a matinee of Spider-man, Turn Off the Dark, and rounding out the lavish day with cocktails and dinner at The Lambs Club.
The restaurant is a hotspot in the theater district, connected to the British-inspired Chatwal Hotel. Although a new endeavor by Chef Geoffery Zakarian, best known in NYC for his defunct restaurants Town and Country, the Lambs Club has a rich history. Dating back to 1905, this midtown space used to house the first American theatrical club, The Lambs, which had more than 6000 members including Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire and even John Wayne. Just imagine casual conversation of days past: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim.” Or something to that effect.
Exiting a taxi in Times Square we walk a half block to the elegant black awning situated right next to a Subway sandwich shop. Happy not to be sharing a footlong cold cut combo, we make our way inside. A tiny bar sits to the right with the dining room straight in front—is this where the trendy cocktails are served? It is in fact not, and up a separate flight of stairs we find ourselves in a large dim-lit lounge, accented in red and adorned with slightly cliché Empire State Building chandeliers. There is something inviting about the vibe, which is clubby, yet unpretentious. On this Sunday night it sits empty minus two gentleman, slurping oysters.
The bartender, Justin, tells us The Lambs Club is an appropriate choice post-Spider-man since it is a popular hangout for the cast and crew. Feeling a bit awestruck, he reveals that music and lyric-providers Bono and The Edge, were present only three nights before! Sadly, no U2 drinking buddies tonight, but the cocktails are nearly as good as the first viewing of Rattle & Hum. We now understand why New York magazine chose the Lambs Cup (a take on the Wimbledon Tournament favorite Pimm’s) as one of the best cocktails in the city. The Gold Rush (bourbon blended with honey and lemon) is magnificent as well. We already make a pact to come back if only for the White Russian served Munich-style, which Justin says is a must.
Time for dinner: a young, sophisticated maître d’ shows us to a cozy table for two. We are sitting next to a beautiful 18th century French fireplace that provides an intimate glow throughout the small square dining room. The atmosphere is warm and inviting. A great place in winter, but how will they transform the windowless space into a summer attraction?
The first of two servers greets us as we peruse the wine list. After ordering a bottle of Ridge red zinfadel, we take the opportunity to use the flashy restrooms hidden behind doors straight from a modern Love Boat—nautical window to boot.
The wine seems to be taking an awfully long time, and we are beginning to crave another cocktail. But the wait is justified as the Sommelier explains that a good friend pre-purchased the bottle for a birthday gift – what a treat! Too bad we did not order the $300 bottle of Chateauneuf de Paup. All kidding aside, Nick—the Ridge was such a nice complement to the evening, and our first course: grilled octopus with lemongrass and turnips, and heirloom beets with stracciatella and white balsamic. The tender octopus, in particular, is something special compared to the chewy consistency of previous establishments that shall remain nameless. Meanwhile, the colorful beet salad provides a needed touch of spring on a cold winter night.
For mains, we have seared sea scallops with porcini and vadouvan sauce, and roasted lamb saddle with polenta, pignoli and romaine. On the side: Martha’s beans and greens made with pancetta and pecorino. The sea scallops sit atop beautiful foam and the large portion of lamb saddle could make even the hungriest carnivore swoon. We share the last bites of lamb that seem to dance with the velvetiness of the Ridge. Oh my! We are beyond full, but dessert is not a choice, when a Happy Birthday pot de la crème springs unexpectedly from the kitchen.
This is the kind of place where conversation can spark between tables, as we laugh it up with the well-to-do psychiatrist party in the corner. Did the Geico commercial with the drill-sergeant psychiatrist go too far? It is amazing what a few well-shaken cocktails can do to an otherwise keep-amongst-yourself NYC crowd. As we pay the bill we think a romantic fireplace photo could be a nice keepsake – but as full and giddy as we are, The Lambs Club is not a place to let our guard down, especially in front of a new table of Gold Rush sippers. A photo op will have to wait until next time.
EXPERIENCE = 7/9