NYC — Spring 2017: Penelope

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Late Saturday morning, we decided to trek down to Penelope for brunch, which I had seen on several "Best of" lists for brunch in Midtown East. Brunch is a big deal in NYC on weekends, so I knew that there was going to be a wait without a reservation, but we were having a leisurely day with no real plans, so we chanced it. We decided to walk the 20 blocks instead of taking the subway 'cause it was a nice day (it cooled down to a perfect 20°C on Saturday), put our name on the wait list, and walked around the neighbourhood until we were texted that our table was ready (another thing I appreciate about restaurants in NYC is that they text you when your table is getting ready so you don't have to stay in the vicinity to wait). After an hour wait, we finally got a table.

Salmon Wrapped Poached Eggs

Penelope has a prix fixe menu for brunch, which includes a main and a brunch cocktail or coffee/tea and juice for $20, but both of us ended up wanting mains from the à la carte menu, so we decided to skip the prix fixe. I typically prefer savoury dishes to sweet for breakfast and brunch, so I went with the salmon wrapped poached eggs. It includes two soft poached eggs, perfectly runny, wrapped in smoked salmon on toasted black bread and drizzled with green goddess dressing. It was reliably tasty in the way that poached eggs and smoked salmon always are; the smokiness of the salmon works well with the butteriness of the eggs and the tanginess of the dressing, and it's an incredibly satisfying combo. However, instead of salad as my side, I asked for home fries, and therein lie my true regret that meal. The home fries here are mushy and messy, in a way that makes it seem like they were sitting in a stew for too long. Home fries should not be stewed. They have this kind of bitter smokiness to them that requires mounds of ketchup to balance out the flavour. Let's just say, they taste about as good as they look and they are not photogenic. I'm not usually someone that complains about their food or doesn't finish everything on her plate, but this was one major exception. Put simply, the home fries are bad. I should've stuck to the salad. And that's really saying something.

It is a quaint, rustic space with lots of hardwood and communal benches that feels cozy and warm, like what I'd imagine a country cafe to be. But it's a really tight fit in there, so you gotta get comfortable being in close proximity to other guests — a commonality in NYC restaurants, but it's worth noting that you will be in the middle of other people's conversations no matter how hard you try not to eavesdrop. On another note, I gotta say, the service was mediocre. Polite enough, but a bit pretentious. They weren't very attentive; we had to look around the entire restaurant four to five times before a server even looked at us to take our order, and I ended up having to ask a busboy for our cutlery (which really should've already been on the table) and to get our server for us so we could get some coffee. For the kind of prices they're charging, I just expected a little more. It's not a bad place for brunch, but it's definitely underwhelming given the hype.

159 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 481-3800
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