Sunday Brunch: Mesa Grill (102 5th Avenue, www.mesagrill.com/newyorkcity)
I love Bobby Flay. I really do. I get that some people aren't over the standing-on-cutting-board Iron Chef original fiasco, and some never see him ever lose on Throwdown, but he cooks so damn well. Every time one of his Food Network shows ends with the black screen and writing of him owning Mesa Grill, I always think to myself or say out loud, "I want to eat at Mesa Grill." And so I did.
Here's the thing: Even though I hyped it in my head from television, reading scores and scores of New York Times dining reviews, made me realize I was going there for the food, yes, but for the star power as well. Just as I did at Morimoto in Philadelphia. But whereas Morimoto lived up to his name (I met him there after all!), Mesa Grill did not.
The decor seemed strange. Kind of cheap and tacky actually with the fake flames overhead to ... do what ... ? Give a southwestern theme? I felt like I was in Calgary. Service was pleasant but oddly hurried for a relatively non-busy Sunday brunch/lunch hour.
We ordered fresh juice to start. It was great. Very fresh. For $4.50 (all prices in USD). Is that really how much fresh juice costs?
The bread basket was an interesting mix of sweet raisin breads, which were really more like cakes, and little jalapeno scones. For entree, I saw a server carrying Bobby's version of eggs benedict, which I had to have -- two poached eggs on top of cajun chicken with sweet potatoes in an ancho chile hollandaise sauce ($14). It was very filling. And everything was cooked nicely -- egg perfect consistency of runniess; chicken & sweet potatoes tender; hollandaise sauce velvety. But midway through, everything started coming out too sweet, which I thought was weird for a dish that really, seems like it should be more spicy.
It was nice to go, and the meal did it job, and the prices were not too bad, but I couldn't help feel I missed an opportunity to discover a local New York gem of a Sunday brunch place.