If you have seen Woody Allen's acclaimed film, Midnight in Paris and envied Owen Wilson's character for being transported back in time and place to 1920's Paris, then you are in for a real-life treat. I went back in time to 1920's Paris last night here in New York City, and it was a delicious and magical experience that I will always cherish.
Before me and my friend enjoyed an Off-Broadway comedy called Craving for Travel at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, we decided to run into the cafe next door to enjoy a quick bite before the performance. When we walked in, we were immediately transported to the life and times of Josephine Baker in Paris during the 1920's. The art, decor, music and even the personalities of the staff made you feel as if you had stepped into another world. We were greeted in french by the enigmatic and charming Maitre d' and shown to a cozy table near the piano.
The menu was eclectic: ranging from lobster cassoulet to fried chicken, to the enticing special of pan seared sea bass, making our dining decision even more difficult. Once our waiter arrived, and we had ordered some wine, a man dressed in a tuxedo appeared by the piano and started playing the iconic As Time Goes By from the classic film, Casablanca. I asked the waiter what the signature or most popular entree on the menu was and he listed almost everything that was listed on the menu. He then suggested the spaghetti bolognese since it is listed as "Josephine's favorite". I took him at his word, while my friend tried the special of the evening: the sea bass with mushroom risotto.When our food had arrived it was by far the best, most flavorful spaghetti bolognese I had ever tasted. When I usually have this dish, it is too harsh and tart, but Josephine's version was just right. As we ate, the waiters and maitre d' periodically checked in on us, but made casual conversation as if we were guests in their home.
Later ,after we ate, I took a trip upstairs where I snapped a few shots of the empty dining rooms that looked like your classic drawing rooms in a Paris apartment.
Even the bathrooms looked as if they were the garrets of starving, genius artists, musicians and writers of the era, with flowers, vintage posters, ruffled curtains, and antique doors and other paraphernalia of those times. You felt as if you had paid a visit to Josephine Baker's apartment in Paris.
Coming down from the drawing rooms and restrooms, I caught a few dark, yet enchanting shots of the pianist at work, who smiled charmingly and greeted me in french as well.
After dinner, we had to have a quick dessert before returning to reality. We ordered two intriguing desserts that boggled the imagination: an apple rhubarb crepe cake and a lemon tart brulee. Is it a crepe or a cake? Is it a tarte? A creme brulee? The staff answered: both, of course. We didn't argue. When our desserts arrived, they didn't last long. My crepe cake was light and fluffy, with layers of apple rhubarb compote interspersed between layers of crepes. My friend's lemon tarte brulee was in the shape and form of a tarte but the creamy texture and crunchy burnt sugar topping made it seem as if you were eating creme bruelee. We left feeling blissful and well looked after.
The creative, welcoming, warm and friendly staff of Chez Josephine made an otherwise ordinary dinner a truly decadent and international experience. The decor, atmosphere, music, art and personalities of the establishment will make you feel at home, yet on a Parisian adventure in the heart of Manhattan. So, if you ever find yourself on 42nd street between 9th and 10th avenues, and you are looking for a decadent, yet affordable and magical experience, stop by Chez Jospehine, where you will be pampered and transported to another time and place during an unforgettable and delicious french inspired meal.