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Brunch at the Grand Tier in the Metropolitan Opera House

By Luci

At age 17 I became an opera lover. Why? I was a fan of Ella Fitzgerald. She had a marvelous song, “Beat Out That Rhythm on a Drum,” in the film, Carmen Jones. I bought the record and played it over and over. When the Metropolitan Opera came to Pittsburgh (where I grew up) for a performance of Carmen, I went and loved it. Now, in New York, I have a subscription to the Met and have become a fan of The Grand Tier restaurant ( The room is beautiful and elegant with marvelous food, all in the grand, old style. Recently, I took brunch there with my good friend, Mie Oshima, also an opera devotee. 

The Service

Count on a cordial welcome from reception. An escort shows you to your table and pulls the chair out for ease of sitting. Water is poured; a selection of breads with excellent butter appears and you may order a drink. The menu and wine list arrive. You have ample time to select without undue waiting as your server is quite attentive. The servers know their menu and are happy to answer questions, e.g., “What’s a sformato?” (See below). The food is served with an eye to performance time. A bell rings to signal that curtain time is nigh. If necessary, your server will remind you. Indeed, of course, any fine restaurant will do the same. But I give the Grand Tier five stars for their service.

Mie and I like one server in particular, Jason, shown above. Not only is he pleasant, helpful and cordial with a great smile, I respect him because he loves food and loves to cook at home. His sense of humor clinched our appreciation. At his table, I had ordered bananas Foster, which is usually flambéed. This one had the classic combination of ingredients but came as a cold parfait. Delicious. But just for fun, I asked Jason: How come no flambée? He quickly pulled out his cigarette lighter and held it over the dish. Sharp and witty! Mie and I broke up, quietly, of course.

The Course of Courses

I call it enlightened, sophisticated and humane, i.e., considerate. Before the performance, perhaps a pleasant glass of something. Sparkling wine seems just right. Appetizer and main course follow. And this I love: At intermission, you return to the same table set with your chosen dessert and beverage. It’s humane - no rush to get through all three courses and it permits digestion of the first two courses before dessert. Dessert, then, is more enjoyable.

The Beverages 

Mie and I started with a very pleasant sparkling rosé, had a beautiful Bordeaux with our tenderloin main course, finishing with a smooth and rich espresso with dessert. All excellent.

The Appetizers

Mie had charred octopus with pickled mushrooms, smashed potatoes and saffron rouille (a French sauce often served with seafood soups). She pronounced it first-rate. That is high praise from a native of Tokyo where seafood is typically of very high quality. 

I took the roasted sun choke soup with black truffle sformato (similar to a  soufflé but not as airy and creamy). Entirely delightful. Creamy, full mouth feel and taste that was complex with savory elements. The sformato offered an interesting contrast in texture. A pleasure.

Main Course

Mie and I both opted for beef tenderloin with fried egg topping, potato mousseline and wilted spinach (to which you may add foie gras). I opted to skip the egg. 

There was no beef with the beef. The outside was charred to a crisp but not burnt, making a great texture contrast with the tender inside. That was done perfectly to our taste: Mie’s - medium rare, mine-very rare. Beef tenderloin is lean so not as flavorful as well marbled cuts. But that also means it is not quite so filling so that is just right for lunch. This beef tenderloin was as tasty as any I’ve had. 

The potatoes mousseline: I was a wee bit puzzled here as the dish is a classic French one of potatoes put through a ricer to make a cloud-like appearance and that ethereal melt-in-the-mouth feel. Lots of butter and heavy cream are the foundation ingredients. As you can see in the photo, that was not quite what was served. Never mind. They were savory and yummy with flavors that either I do not remember or could not identify.

The other accompaniments were also not what was described on the menu. Again, never mind - all tasty, all adding to the visual and taste gestalts of the dish. 


Berries Mélange pleased Mie for the fresh berries were beautiful and sweet, the Chantilly whipped cream rich with just enough sweetness and vanilla to enhance the flavor of the cream. A bit cloud-like in appearance but not texture. The whipped cream fills the mouth, requiring a moment of appreciation; no effortless melt-in-the- mouth feel. 

I chose the Opera Cake: almond joconde cake (a type of sponge used in multi-layer confections), espresso cream, chocolate ganache. The Grand Tier’s presentation takes the cake. Do you get as much pleasure from a gorgeous, alluring  presentation as I do? Of course, the cake offers gratifying contrasts of texture and the scrumptious synthesis of chocolate and almond. Dark chocolate and espresso cream provide the measure of bitter that heightens and strengthens the taste experience.

An aside for Staten Islanders: Do you remember the long-gone pastry shop on Manor Road with a gluten-free specialty? His gluten-free opera cake was terrific. I used to get it for a colleague with celiac disease and I enjoyed it, too.


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