Being the ultimate glutton for punishment when it comes to fat and cholesterol-laden foods, Steingarten, his lovely wife Karen, my friend and New Orleans Times Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie, and I headed to Resto, the Belgian meat and fat festival of a restaurant Mr. Bruni recently reviewed in the Times. Bruni of course told me everything I needed to know in his hilarious opening:
"IT’S time for a quiz. A diagnostic test, really. This one is best taken on an empty stomach, with a napkin and a defibrillator at hand.
1. If the lamb ribs you’re served are striped with garishly thick bands of fat, you ...
a) use your knife as if it were a scalpel, surgically isolating the meat.
b) quiver with joy.
2. If a tower of French fries is skirted by a deep well of mayonnaise, you ...
a) gasp, and ask for ketchup instead.
b) say a prayer of thanks.
3. If a deviled egg wobbles on a pedestal of breaded, deep-fried pork jowl, you ...
a) send it back.
b) wonder how much better the egg might taste on a double-decker pedestal of breaded, deep-fried pork jowl.
If you answered (a) to all or most of the above, stop reading now. What follows may sicken you, ruining your breakfast of low-fat cottage cheese and jeopardizing your attendance at Bikram yoga class.
If you answered (b), perk up. A terrific new restaurant named Resto serves lamb ribs just like the ones I described. Its deviled eggs really do piggyback on pork."
Here's the good news. Much of the food at Resto is crunchy, original, and utterly delicious. We had half a dozen dishes there I'd never seen anywhere else:
Deviled eggs on rafts of deep-fried pork jowl.
A phenomenal cheeseburger burger made with hangar steak, beef cheeks, fatback, and Gruyere cheese that is beefier and juicier than any hamburger I have ever had in my life.
Double cooked pork with a Belgian endive vinaigrette.
A special that night of an incredibly good pork jowl sandwich on toast.
Bitter Ballen, fried pork and veal meatballs served with a mustard aioli.
An incredibly crispy lobster tempura with green sauce and bitter almond.
I have only one question. If these dishes are part of the prototypical Belgian diet, does any Belgian live to be thirty? Forty, maybe? Fifty, possibly?
Which leads me to the bad news about Resto. As we know, I love fat, pork, and beef more than life itself (no pun intended). That could be seen as a death wish if my cholesterol levels weren't so shockingly low. But even I found the food at Resto exceptionally and excessively fat-laden (and we're not talking about Mediterranean diet olive oil fat here). Deliciously but aggressively fat-laden.
So Resto will be an occasional, maybe a semi-annual excursion for me, unless they start putting bottles of Lipator on each table as both a preventive and remedial measure. Otherwise you might find yourself having to get a signed note from your cardiologist to get in.
111 E. 29th Street (bet. Park and Lex)
New York, NY