When I was in New York last week, abandoned to the big city alone by my traveling companion who went home sick, I decided I wasn't going to settle for a slice of pizza at the restaurant next door to the hotel. No siree, I wanted real food. My first choice was Alex Urena's Pamplona, but when I called Mr Minx to arrange my reservation via Open Table, he informed me that the earliest I could get in was 8pm. That wasn't going to work, as I hoped to be snugly tucked into bed by that time, catching up on the sleep I missed the night before. I felt a small pang of guilt that I would be experiencing a possibly wonderful meal without my dearest at my side (or across the table), so I wasn't too bothered about not getting in to my first choice. I decided Mesa Grill would work just fine, as my hubby had been there with me twice before, both in NY and in Las Vegas, and I wouldn't be experiencing anything new. Plus they had a 6pm ressie available.
I don't like eating out alone. The alone part doesn't bother me so much as the chance that some other random alone stranger might want to join me, or at least talk to me. And I'm not fond of random strangers, period. One of the first occasions that I had to eat alone was when I visited England back in 1989. I stayed in a hotel in London for a few days myself before heading off to visit friends in the country. I felt so uncomfortable dining alone in the hotel coffee shop, a place I had visited so many times before in the past with my family (my family has a "regular" hotel in London, despite the fact that we visit only about once a decade or so), that I ate the rest of my meals in my room. Once I even resorted to thawing a boil-in-bag curry in a hot bathtub and eating it tepid, just to avoid the sympathetic stares of other diners.
That was a long time ago, and I don't care as much what strangers think of me. (Still don't like talking to them though.) So I left my purse and anything else that might make me look muggable at the hotel, picked up a paperback, and walked confidently to my destination. There, I was given the choice of sitting hidden away upstairs, or on the banquette in full view of the dining room. Uncharacteristically, I chose the banquette.
After much menu deliberation (because I wanted everything on it), I ordered the yellow cornmeal crusted oysters with green curry sauce and mango pico de gallo, followed by the cornmeal crusted chile relleno filled with acorn squash, sage, and goat cheese, served with fig-cascabel chile sauce, and a side of sauteed spinach. The oysters were beautifully presented: a row of oyster shells, each with a spoonful of bright green sauce topped with a crisp oyster and a bit of mango garnish. The shellfish was wonderfully tender and the Thai style curry sauce had just the right amount of heat. It was so good, I mopped it out of the shells with selections from my personal bread basket. (I didn't get any of the two-tone corn muffins, which disappointed me, but the little rolls were delicious). I love chiles rellenos in all of their piquant/crusty/oozy glory. This one was a far more elegant version than I have experienced before, with mild and savory flavors inside and a dark rich sauce (which was a kissing cousin to the one Mr Minx did not enjoy at Bolo, although prepared with a much lighter hand) with chunks of fig. The spinach was simply but perfectly prepared, still bright green yet cooked long enough to remove its astringent quality.
I went for broke and had dessert as well. Because there was nothing cornmeal-encrusted on the dessert menu, I instead chose a huge slab of chocolate coconut layer cake served with a wee scoop of lime sorbet. The coconut must have come from coconut milk, as the flavor was present but not as the typical waxen shavings. I couldn't eat the whole thing, but it was very good.
And the whole time I was eating, I felt perfectly comfortable. The staff was charming and attentive, and no strangers approached me. I did notice another solo diner farther down the banquette, but we paid each other no mind. I felt powerful, capable, strong. (Until I got the check, at which point I felt a little broke as well.) I left the restaurant, hailed a cab immediately, and found myself snuggled down in front of the TV by 8pm. And the next day, I dined alone again, at db Bistro Moderne, but you've already read that post. ;)
102 5th Ave
New York, NY 10011