Tuesday, March 13, 2007
One Croque Monsieur, Hold the Vermin!
A new day has dawned for New York diners, and you can thank the rats. After a pack of the little buggers made national news by commandeering a KFC/Taco Bell in the west village and mugging for the cameras, the board of health realized it might just have to go to work. The result is a food-cop reign of terror that saw our beloved neighborhood bistro, L'Express, become one of 83 restaurants closed by the health department in the days after the embarrassing rat episode.
Also closed was the popular Union Square eatery, the Coffee Shop. And the owner is pissed. Co-owner Charles Milite told the New York Post that a city inspector scoured the place for 3 1/2 hours instead of his usual 60 to 90 minutes. "After 17 years of business and a clean bill of health, they have decided we cannot store a sealed jar of olives on the floor, we need rubber gloves in our resuscitation kit, and we must place end cups on fluorescent lights in our dish area and prep kitchen," they wrote in a notice posted on the restaurant's entrance.
If you know the Coffee Shop, it is a popular place right on Union Square that serves homey, if pretty average food. It's known mostly as a hangout for models and aspiring actors, so if someone is throwing up after eating at the Coffee Shop it is probably because they're purging, not food poisoned. I'm sure most diners are more concerned about catching an STD there than food poisoning. I don't even want to think about where the rubber gloves from their rescusitation kit ended up. Nevertheless, Milite's right when he says he smells a backlash simmering at the Department of Health.
What does closing down all these restaurants really accomplish? The real, practical effect is that each restaurant's hardworking staff are needlessly losing their pay.
L'Express is a fine esablishment. Spoon and I often go there for their authentic bistro fare: they serve an excellent warm goat cheese salad, a killer croque monsieur, and they make their own delicious lyonnaise sausages, pate and duck liver mousse. Sometimes, I find myself craving escargot. It's also a great place to kick back with a fat cafe au lait, or a glass of wine or a beer.
I'll admit, my second thought after hearing they'd been closed for 24 hours, after "what a shame," was "what better time to dine there than the day after coming back from a department of health closure?" So, Spoon and I had a lovely, ultra-sanitary meal there upon their reopening, which we finished with a creme brulee. Just our way of letting our friends at L'Express know we never doubted them. --F