Saturday, September 24, 2005

Reviewer-Proof New York City Entry #12

Some restaurants are reviewer-proof. One can just pack up one's adjectives and go home. They do what they do, do it adequately, if not memorably, and go on their merry way.

A couple that I know swear by the Madison Bistro, visiting it on most visits to New York. They find comfort in the dark, romantic (although some might say murky, gloomy) interior. They find the bistro food well-prepared and the service attentive.

I was recently taken to the Madison Bistro with a group of colleagues, and can sympathize with my friends. No one would confuse MB with one of the bright, elegant, creative bistros that New York has to offer. The Madison Bistro is not Balthazar through any fantasy that I can imagine.

What one might best say about the food is that it does not distract from one's conversation, amorous or intellectual. Restaurants are not only places for eating, but for talking. At some exceptional restaurants I wish that my partner would vanish to leave me alone with my food and my thoughts. This is assuredly not the case at MB.

My choice was traditional bistro fare: Escargot with Parsley and Garlic; Lamb Shanks Tangine with Olives and Lemon, and Praline Souffle with Vanilla Sauce. These dishes were neither successes or failures, they just were. The escargot was garlicky, perhaps a little tough, perhaps with too much butter, but six satisfying bites. The tangine sauce lacked much spice - and seemed more Madison than Mecca, but it did mix sweetness and acidity pleasantly. The souffle was fluffy, although not delicate. Given that the waiter attempted (successfully) to sell us the souffle, this seems a production-line item which the bistro has down pat.

None of my dishes astounded and none failed in this bistro that would be a credit to the restaurant scene in any number of small industrial cities throughout the American hinterlands; it happens to be located right here in Murray Hill.

Madison Bistro
238 Madison Avenue (between 37th and 38th Street)
Manhattan (Murray Hill)
212-447-1919

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