Last Thursday, I did something quite daring by my standards and went out for dinner with 20 strangers. The occasion was day one of a new restaurant at Grand Hyatt; the company eclectic and friendly. Amidst wine and conversations, the two brains behind Brown Paper Bag and the PR manager for Grand Hyatt made sure we met everyone in the lovely bunch of "what started as strangers and ended as friends".
And now, aren't you dying to hear about the newly opened Fifty Five East, the restaurant that replaces that Martini Bar called M they had for a few years. The short version is that it's pretty, it's good food and you should go there for dinner tomorrow (but don't wear heels; it's a long walk to a buffet spread over a huge space). And whatever you do, save space for dessert.
If you are still here, be warned that this was the first time I went to a restaurant where the PR guy took me on a tour and chefs came to talk to me, so I am probably gonna inundate you with information. First the space - there's a lot of it everywhere. It's beautifully decorated; one part with fancy light cutouts and the other with a colorful sari collage.
The food is a selection of Lebanese, Japanese, Thai and Indian. I know, I was shocked at first too at the strange mix. But once you get to know it better, it's a brilliant concept. Most of it is mezze and grills, cooked right inside the restaurant in open kitchens. The cold section features Lebanese - your standard measures of hummus and yogurt dips with pita. But there's also sushi right there at the same counter. An authentic Japanese chef turned out a fairly non-authentic spicy fried mushroom sushi, and I didn't dare try the bhindi version.
The hot section is Thai and grills. There was a green veg curry and pad thai but it was in the grills section that I met the star of the show. It was polenta and parmesan cakes with a creamy mushroom sauce. I went for seconds, I would have gone for thirds if I didn't notice the desserts section first.
Indian? I'm sure it was nice, but I didn't see anyone from our group turn in that direction. I know I didn't.
So we go on to a dessert buffet to die for. On one side are healthy fruits and some Indian sweets no one was paying any attention to. In the middle were some 20 odd pastries, cheesecakes and tarts. I noticed a custard, the chef claimed it's cream brulee, then sprinkled some sugar and out came a blow torch. You know I am all for drama at my table. So I went back and told him to torch a lemon tart for me.
Then I went back and told him to make a warm crepe with berry compote. I would have gone back to get a soft serve customized with fruit purees and almond clusters, but the nice chefs got it for me at the table. I would still rate the lemon tart the best. But I am obsessed with lemons so try everything else too when you go.
Then say goodbye to some lovely new friends and vow not to eat the next three days.