Bistro Vendome

There's a cute little neighborhood of Manhattan where I've never traversed, but discovered one night en route to a French restaurant called Bistro Vendome.  The restaurant is in Sutton Place (let me guess your reaction: "where the heck is Sutton Place?!") right under the 59th Street Bridge.  It was dark and romantic inside; the restaurant was a sort of crazy configuration of split level - a few tables on the ground floor, a few tables up some steps, and a bigger space down some steps.  The different levels gave the eatery some charm, but must make it very difficult for wait staff to maneuver.  Many of the diners were a few generations older than us, meaning they spoke to the staff in fluent French and were probably dignitaries or ambassadors or some such thing.  It was very cute to people-watch.

Alex had a duck leg confit and I had a big ol' vat of Normande mussels.  The duck leg was perched on a plate almost like it was seductively beckoning like that scene in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman stares at her legs.  But a duck leg.  The skin was crispy, as the confit cooking style would make it.  Only recently did I learn that "confit" meant that the protein was probably slow-cooked in its own fat and then seared until crisp on the outside, or something like that (look at me, trying to lamely explain French cooking!).

Meanwhile, my dish of mussels came in a big cooking pot.  I lifted the lid and a big cloud of steam, fragrant with mushrooms and truffles, fogged up my glasses.  The mussels were good: not too chewy or funky, but it took a lot of work to harvest one little nugget of meat.  Alex was supremely grossed out by the fact that I was eating so many bivalves with all their weird body parts.  The truffle cream sauce was divine, and I was finding every bit of carb (the bread on the table, the truffle frites that came with the moules) to dip in it.  To be honest, I didn't find the cream sauce all that strong in truffle flavor, but the truffle fries were super truffle-icious and paired well together.

It wouldn't have been a real French meal if we didn't end it with a creme brulee.  Also, it wouldn't have been a real French meal if Alex didn't critique the creme brulee.  Bistro Vendome's had a delicious custard - not too sweet, nice and thick and creamy - but alas, Alex suggested it would have been better had the custard been cold and the brulee topping been hot like it was just torched.  All in all, though, tres tasty.