Brunch at the Metropolitan Opera’s Grand Tier Restaurant
Opera and Omelets, and perhaps a Bellini or Two
By Ruth J. Katz
Quintessential New York: Christmas. The ormolu-dotted Grand Tier of the Metropolitan Opera House, chandeliers gleaming. The sky gently bruised a soft gray. Twinkling snowflakes landing silently in the Lincoln Center Plaza. In the distance across Broadway, a Christmas tree glimmering with seasonal cheer. In this cinematic setting, I experienced what I can only call an Edith Wharton moment— snugly ensconced in the imposing Grand Tier Restaurant of the Met, surrounded by Gotham enrobed in her seasonal best. There was one more element to come, which would put the proverbial angel on top of the evergreen—a memorable brunch! It was one of the first Sundays that the destination restaurant was open for Sunday brunch. Long the go-to, pre-performance boite for regular opera-goers—and in days of yore, for the soignee, gowned and gloved society grand dames escorted by the tuxedoed pillars of Gotham’s moneyed set—the restaurant has become even more of a destination since the esteemed Patina Restaurant Group assumed management of the tradition-rich facility. (Patina also owns two-star Lincoln Restaurant—opened in fall, 2010, across the Plaza—which proffers sublimely transcendent fare.) The Grand Tier restaurant has always served tradition-rich, pre-opera dinners and intermission desserts, but a Sunday opening for brunch (the house is dark on Sundays) is an inspired idea, offering non-opera-fans an opportunity to drink in the enviable environment and savor the delicious fare of chef Richard Diamonte. There are two seatings, at 11:00 a.m. and 12:45, and several options for dining. There is an a la carte menu and a prix fixe option, at $39, which includes a starter, an entrée, and limitless Grand Tier Bellinis. The starters comprise an interesting assortment–cauliflower soup, pâté de campagne, house-made yogurt and granola, and an absolutely stellar crab cake. Main courses are all highly inventive, all the more so, because they are still variations on classic breakfast fare. There are several choices for eggs, a few somewhat traditional, but with a Grand Tier twist—such as brioche French toast and lemon ricotta pancakes—and a few not so typical, including wild mushroom risotto. I highly recommend a side of the chicken and apple sausage—we even ordered a second serving, it was so dee-lish (There is also a children’s brunch menu, at $20, geared to a less sophisticated palate.)
Brunch guests will also revel in a wonderfully delightful treat—a 20-minute recital by members of the Met’s acclaimed Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Performances are presented at 12:15 and 1:30, one for each seating. On our visit, tenor Ian Koziara was accompanied by Zalman Kelber at the piano and the program was a pleasing mélange of Broadway and operatic favorites—with a Wagnerian aria thrown in, lest you forget where you are. Additionally, the front of the house is open for guests to discover Gallery Met, which presents contemporary art exhibitions on operatic themes; in the Founder’s Hall there is an show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the company’s move to Lincoln Center.
For reservations (a must), call 212-799-3400 or visit www.patinagroup.com/the-grand-tier-restaurant. The restaurant will be open for Sunday brunch for the rest of the opera season, and may also continue with Sunday brunch for the spring/summer ballet season. (Call first.) For more opera-centric information, log on to www.metopera.org.
This is a truly New York experience and certainly an exceptional one for special occasions, for showing off New York to visitors, or simply a way to find bliss on an indulgent, lazy Sunday. Come for the setting, the service, the sustenance, and the serenading.
The author of five books, Ruth J. Katz was the style/travel editor of Promenade magazine for eight years. She has written extensively for both The New York Times and New York magazine and has served as an editor or contributing editor at numerous magazines, including Redbook, Classic Home, Golf Connoisseur, and The Modern Estate. She has visited over 80 countries (and counting).