Jamais dit jamais

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
April 28, 2008

Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club
24 E 81st St
(5th & Madison Aves)
New York, NY 10028

Recently, Celia and I went to check out a restaurant/club (it turns into a disco later at night) located on the ground floor of a townhouse close to the Met on the Upper East Side: Bruno Jamais. This was too good to pass up. Who could imagine a restaurant-slash-club on a completely quiet residential block!

Well, “jamais dit jamais,” never say never, my aunt Nancy often reminds me. Cel and I were greeted at a dark reception area in a long wine-cellared hallway leading to the restaurant. Once inside this space, we found ourselves so out of place, it was like we were in a surreal dream. There were pop art paintings for sale on the walls and the vibe was totally club-like. We were the only diners when we were seated at nine o’clock. Later, a few trickled in here and there. It was a very interesting mix of crowds. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say we saw some odd couples — older men dining with much younger dates. This club was apparently a place for secret meetings. By eleven o’clock the place was transformed with the lights dimmed, crowds of party-goers and couples alike dancing and just starting their night.

Unlike the clientele, the starters were very forgettable, including the signature lobster brûlée ($25). But then we decided to get the veal Milanese ($30) to share. Wow! I wish this dish could be transported to any resto in my neighborhood. It was really an excellent Milanese. Especially in comparison to the last one I had at Lever House, which was shockingly tasteless with the breading falling apart left and right. So bad that one of my accompanying lunchmates wrote a letter of complaint afterwards.

The Jamais Milanese, on the other hand, was crisp, tender, flavorful, juicy. Thin, too. It was an immediate craving. But Bruno Jamais doesn’t seem to be the type of restaurant I can just pop into for a single craving. Maybe if I could convince a fun group of friends, we could make a night of it!

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