An evocative movie, play, even art exhibition can make you hungry.
Seeing Anything Goes, the bubbly Cole Porter revival at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, put me in the mood for a Sidecar from the Blue Bar at the Algonquin. Who knows? Ethel Merman and the original cast from 1934 could have followed the same path after their performances.
My reaction to Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was equally visceral:
I craved a brasserie, one with red leather banquettes, white tablecloths, painted paneled walls and fresh flowers. If the wait staff wore black waistcoats and white aprons, so much the better. When I landed in the East 20s at lunch time a few days ago, I knew exactly what to do and bee-lined to Millesime, a by-the-book French seafood brasserie billeted on the mezzanine of the Carlton Hotel.
Millesime gets the look of Belle Epoch Paris, the era that the movie’s Marion Cotillard character pines for, just right. The building, originally the Hotel Seville, dates from 1904. Though a David Rockwell redo in 2005 cleaned it up and modernized it in all the right places, early 20th-century remnants remain, like the restaurant’s mosaic floor, paneled walls and, best of all, the commanding Tiffany dome, beautifully restored after years of being cloaked in cigar smoke.
Chef Laurent Manrique, whose CV includes a stint heading the Waldorf=Astoria’s Peacock Alley, gets the menu right as well, at least the several times I’ve had lunch. I happily gobbled up the Salmon Escalope, served with delicate Herb Meuniere ($20) and a side of creamed spinach ($7), an elegant rendering of a steak house staple, on a previous visit.
But it’s summer, so I was seduced by the selection of cold salads and vegetables in the Chariot Express, a handsome domed cart wheeled over by a server. I chose three ($12) – couscous, wild rice and brocolli rabe – and added a portion of cold poached salmon ($9) served with butter lettuce and a splendid Sauce Vierge of olives, tomatoes and basil. Eyes closed, I tasted Paris. An espresso in a red demitasse arrived ($4), and I was transported – to Paris, to the movie, to the 1920s, to the Belle Epoch. The feeling was fleeting, but hey, not bad for an impromptu lunch.