Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Orange Juice Does Not a Mimosa Make

Chocolate Decadence French Toast -- Norma's

Norma's is one of those places we're supposed to like.  With items on their menu like chocolate hazelnut crepes, lobster macaroni and cheese, and breakfast dumplings, what could possibly be the problem?

Well, let us begin.

We arrive at Norma's to sample Alex Guarnaschelli's favorite Best Thing I Ever Ate FOR BRUNCH dish, the chocolate decadence French toast.  Both of us have been to Norma's before, and we have even been here together.  We have a hinting suspicion that we don't like the place much, though no exact details stand out in our minds.  Within minutes, the reason behind our Norma's apathy comes crashing back into our memories: Norma's does not serve alcohol.

How is it even possible, in this day and age, to not serve alcohol with brunch?  And for goodness sake, how did we ever forget this fact?
And This Smoothie Shot is Doing Little to Appease Us
Norma's teetotaler policy is revealed to us when Ginger asks for a mimosa, and our waiter suggests "Fresh-squeezed orange juice."  Yes, waiter, orange juice is one of the components of a mimosa, but that is not the target we are after.  What do you have in the way of cocktails?

'Nothing' is the answer.  No kahlua for their coffee, no vodka for their grapefruit juice.  This place is a disaster in spirits.

(Most astoundingly, the hotel bar for Le Parker Meridien is located directly outside of Norma's entrance -- so close and yet so far).

By now disgruntled, we order the French toast and a tuna salad sandwich, planning to share the sweet and savory choices, as neither of us really feels like consuming a pile of chocolate bread mid-day.  The waiter, seemingly thinking the French toast is a poor choice, begins to explain how it is made, but finding our disinterested expressions, he asks if we've had it before.

"Yes," Vodka answers, though she hasn't.  For his explanation won't change our decision - we're on a Food Network mission.

Being that we have nothing to drink but water, Ginger is left to complain about every aspect of her beverage: first that it is empty and no one is refilling it, next that it has been refilled but with more ice than water, and finally that she needs a straw.  Clearly, Norma's alcohol policy has made us hostile, but we are prepared to forget our grievances when our entrees arrive.
Ginger and Her Trusty Butter Knife Seek Revenge
The chocolate decadence French toast is indeed pretty spectacular looking: three thick slices of chocolate "toast" stand stacked on top of one another, smothered in strawberries, pistachios, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, and a dollop of whipped cream.
Looks Like the Powdered Sugar Missed a Side
Trying to reassemble the plate for the sake of a picture, Vodka manages to knock the whole thing over, thus ruining the best aspect of the dish (its aesthetics).
Having to Resort to a Close-Up for Vodka-Made-A-Mess Purposes
Diving in, the toast is surprisingly soft and nimble -- not like the classic stale bread that can be found in some of the most knife-breaking French toast.  It is warm and richly chocolate from the sauce, and it tastes just like a chocolate cake that one would order for dessert.  Vodka, having never met a whipped cream she didn't like, scoops it on heavily, and the first few bites of this accessorized creation are pretty delicious.

Until they're not.
Chocolate French Toast = Our Newest Frenemy
The French toast begins to leave an odd aftertaste in our mouths, and Ginger believes the toast has been burnt, though one would never know because it so darkly colored.  After about half a slice, the whole thing gets to be too much to consume, particularly for a mid-day meal.  In fact, we're not sure when we would like to eat this dish, except maybe late at night after a few cocktails.  But being that Norma's closes at 3:00pm (and, oh yeah, DOESN'T SERVE DRINKS), this idea is fruitless.
French Toast Massacre
The tuna salad sandwich is adequate at best -- tuna that one could make at home out of a can, smushed between two exceptionally tough, crunchy pieces of grainy bread, with no condiments or garnishes to be found.
A Pickle or Two Could Help Redeem You, Sandwich. Even a Tomato Would Do
The accompanying salad is soggy and tastes vaguely like someone dumped a bottle of mustard onto it.  The plate is worth $6 at best, instead of its actual price of $21.
Lunchables for Brunch
And that's the other thing about Norma's: it is absurdly expensive for the product.  The cheapest thing on the menu is a self-described "No Hassle Grapefruit," which unfathomably costs $11, and no hot entree goes for less than $20.  Clearly, they are trying to make up for their booze-less tabs by jacking up the prices of mediocre food.

Does It Look Like We Enjoyed Ourselves?
By the end of the meal, it takes seemingly forever for our waiter to remove our plates (and the leftover French toast smell is lowering our star rating by the second) and bring us our exorbitant check.  If this meal taught us anything, it is this: at least now we know why we don't like Norma's.

Norma's Chocolate Decadence French Toast: 2 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment