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Forbes: "Home Of The Power Breakfast, The Loews Regency Bar & Grill Is A Lot More Relaxed Over Dinner"

Experience The Regency Bar & Grill

Just as the long-gone Four Seasons Grill once epitomized the Power Lunch, The Regency Bar & Grill has for several decades now been known for its “Power Breakfast,” at which the city’s movers and shakers get in an early morning meeting before limo-ing off to Wall Street, City Hall or some media conglomerate. They order the bagels and smoked salmon ($32) or the eggs Benedict ($30), and some have even been known to follow with a second breakfast meeting around nine o’clock.

The hotel’s owner, Bob Tisch, began the idea of the Power Breakfast in the mid-70s during New York City’s financial crisis when he invited the city’s business and political leaders to breakfast to discuss ways to help the city recover from bankruptcy. It’s always been a beautiful room, set on two-and-a-half levels, the first at a bar that is always packed by six PM with those who aspire to get a table at breakfast, when the line snakes out the door. At lunch dinner things are a bit quieter and the clientele diverse.

The art deco carpet, raised banquettes, brown columns and black walls, abstract paintings and black-and-white photos of Upper East Side celebrities have a palpable sense of being a uniquely New York venue. I’m sorry to say that the white tablecloths at breakfast are yanked for lunch and dinner, though still in evidence on the tier of banquettes that are the coziest of spots to dine.

There’s a new executive chef onboard—they seem to change her every few years—Manjit Manohar, who’s doing a deft job of balancing some of the traditions of the Regency Dining Room while adding his own seasonal ideas. Previously he was chef at Millennium Hilton Hotel, as well as prior stints at The Standard Highline, and The Pierre Hotel.

You begin with a generous bread basket—complementary, an increasing rare gesture these days!—which you’ll need to nibble on while waiting for cocktails, which one night took more than fifteen minutes to arrive. Busy, busy bar crowd.

One item that will never leave the menu is the roasted tomato soup with a grilled three-cheese sandwich ($22) that has both a childlike comfort to it along with levels of flavor. You can get truffle fries ($19) as an appetizer, if you like, and right now there’s a white asparagus vichyssoise ($24) with early summer’s ramps, hazelnut and chive oil. Manohar is justly proud of adding “Crisp & Dip” ($24), fit for a table of four, composed of seasoned tzatziki, hummus, baba ghanoush, festive olives and pita crisp. One of the best of the apps is plate of juicy veal meatballs in a lusty tomato sauce ($24) that you’ll need the toasted Chardonnay bread to soak up every last drop.

I asked if his “Jumbo Lump New England Crab Cakes” ($34) really contained jumbo lump crab, and though he said he did, I found the pieces of crab more broken up and shredded, which is an unlikely way to treat such an astronomically pricey ingredient these days. In any case, the grain mustard sauce and rocket lettuce made this a delightful starter or even as a light main course.

“Joan’s chopped salad” ($29), named for Tisch’s wife, was a good take on the original Brown Derby Cobb salad, containing romaine lettuce, chicken, egg, applewood smoked bacon, grated Vermont cheddar, avocado, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette, though original’s addition of chicory and Roquefort provides more assertive flavor.

Among the main courses the “Big Burger” ($32) is more than just a triumph of size; in fact, I’ve seen bigger but rarely better. The patty is about two inches think and well-seasoned, served with American or cheddar cheese on a toasted brioche bun with housemade pickles, onion, tomato and truffle fries (the same ones you might have ordered as an app) . When in the mood for such an American classic, the Regency’s is a classic rendering.

You expect the dry-aged New York strip steak ($74) to rate with other Prime specimens in the city, and, though expensive, you get a full pound of beef rather than the 14 ounces that has become common. So, too, a hefty four lamb chops fill the plate at $78. We took some of both home. There are several sauces to choose among at $6 each.

I’m always skeptical about farm-raised salmon, though just in the past week I’ve had two first-rate examples from Australia and, at The Regency, New Zealand. Meaty, subtle in flavor and impeccably seared to keep the fish moist, it comes with sugar snaps, pickled ramps, Meyer lemon and a dill broth ($45). The inclusion of two pizzas and three pastas is to be expected these days on a New York menu, and if you have kids along, they’ll be happy with the Regency’s.
Hotels do so much banquet business that pastry kitchen turns out desserts of high quality, like the Grill’s dark chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce, gold fust and streusel crumbs ($16); Key lime pie ($16); New York cheesecake ($16); strawberry shortcake ($16) and first-rate breme brûleé ($16).
I was surprised that the dining room’s wine list is so short, with only the higher priced (above $100) offering interesting choices. In this category, upgrading is critical. After all, the Loew’s Regency has to compete with the high level demanded at New York hotel competitors’.
By the way, Manohar has debuted a monthly dinner series in the Regency Room, each month partnering with a local beverage purveyor and develop a multiple course pairing menu for guests and locals.

So, after all these years, the Regency rules as Power Breakfast central, but if you do not feel you need to be among the 200 plus who take up residence each morning, allow yourself to get hungry enough for a splendid dinner of classic foods done with enough flair to mark Manohar as the best chef the room has had in years. It’s a place truly to relax, without daunting noise around you, to share dishes with old friends and family.

Loews Regency New York Hotel
540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street)
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
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