I’m lucky enough to live in a city where I can eat French food whenever I want. Despite getting this easy access to it, I’m always reluctant to get some. The primary reason is because it’s not cheap. The second reason is because I’m very happy cooking something French at home and the third reason is because I don’t want to deal with pretentious people. Often when you go to a renowned French place, you have to deal with obnoxious people. In France we have an expression to make fun of someone who is pretentious. We say “He/She farts above his/her asshole”. It may seem incredibly rude to say something like that but it sums up the idea pretty well. Some people out there still believe that being physically present in a French restaurant give them prestige. Wake up! This is New York and being French in this city is very random.
So when Danny told me that he wanted to get brunch at Maison Harlem I was a bit surprised. He knows me well and I totally rely on him when it comes to pick a restaurant, so here we went.
Maison Harlem was everything I wasn’t expecting – warm, welcoming, unpretentious with good food. We asked to be seated by a window and our waitress sat us at this little wooden table next to the bar. The window was open, and let in a perfect spring breeze. We ordered the Coq au vin ($23) and the Sirloin Steak Tartare ($14). I really liked that the chicken was served with tagliatelle pasta. My dad used to do it that way. The sauce was really good and made it up for the chicken. I’m not expecting a French bistro in West Harlem to buy a rooster and cook it slowly for 12 hours, I try to keep my expectations pretty low on this side, but white meat chicken worked just fine. I’m looking for French taste not authenticity.
The beef tartare is made to order in front of you. Capers, mustard, red onion, cornichons and raw egg. It’s the first time that I see this dish being prepared in front of the customer. In the US it is usually done in the kitchen. I really appreciate it because beef tartare is a dish which you should be able to make it your own. Being asked about how much capers or cornichons you feel like having is a very nice gesture. The frisĂ©e salad on the side is a plus but where are the French fries? For $6 this side is mandatory when you ordered the steak tartare.
Overall, this lunch experience was really good, and I wish I lived closer to Maison Harlem to make it my cantine.