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  1. [Posted on eGullet 2003-2004] Approaching the hotel from the northern perspective, one appreciates the scallop atop the majestic batiment, the crescendo of grandeur as one strolls slowly across the trestle, winding across the expansive exterior foyer, disappearing into the frosted glass porticos. Translation: if you're a cheap fuck like me, park across the railroad tracks and check your car insurance beforehand. I went through the majority of the lounge menu at CityZen this evening. Here's the scoop: The drink menu is impressive, with page-after-page of interesting and thoughtful choices, ranging from the affordable (fine selection of quality beers for $6, Bouchard Montagny for $9, a fabulous, traditional Sidecar for $10) to the hilarious ("Jack Daniels is Using his Blackberry in Tennessee" - a whiskey drink made with blackberry puree) to the insane (a $650 glass of Cognac: take your pick from among three of them). Three dozen vodkas, a dozen rums. [note: it's hard to believe so many millions of dollars would go into this restaurant, and they wouldn't pay someone $100 to spend thirty minutes spellchecking their drink menu] The toro of marinated salmon and beef tartare (in the $13-14 range each) are flat-out great, and perfect ordered side-by-side. I cannot rave enough about these great little plates - if you're on a budget, scarf a few handfuls of nuts to fill up on, and then order one of them. The potato crisps that come with the beef tartare are the best thing approaching a potato chip that I've ever tasted and must be tried to be believed - just try and eating a waffle fry at Chick-Fil-A when you've had one of these babies. But contrast these with the porcini soup with Madras curry puree (a dollop of vegetable creme spooned atop the soup, $10), which was a no-holds-barred failure. The proportion of (cool) puree -to- (hot) soup was excessively high, and the puree was overtly curried to the point of being dry-spice gross. This soup will either change or come off the menu in the near future (trust me). Braised ox heart with Bermuda onions ($10 or so) was perfectly executed, and a stunning combination of salt(ox)-and-sweet(onions), fat(ox)-and-acid(onions), earthen(ox)-and-colorful(onions), warm(ox)-and-cool(onions). I was worried about this dish because I've seen similar things in the past that are clunky-gamey and crunchy-thick-oniony, but this was just a perfect combination of a well-conceived recipe supported by great work in the kitchen. Speaking of the (semi-open) kitchen, I smiled when I walked past, looked over, and noticed the consummate professional Ron Tanaka (former saucier at Citronelle), front and center, working the line furiously, hopping and sweating, looking like he was trying to stop a dam from bursting. Everyone that knows Ron likes him, and it's nice to see this hard-working and talented chef here at CityZen, sure to get the credit he richly deserves. At the bottom of the lounge menu, there are four intimidating dishes: three rillettes (low $20s) and a foie-gras ($42), all served in a preserving jar. In no way should you run from the prices of these dishes, as they are enough for two or three people to share, and worth it. The duck rillettes was everything you could possibly hope for, served with cornichons and brioche presented in an interesting nod to (rip-off from? message about?) Citronelle's fries: rectangular prisms, stacked perpendicularly in twos, well... if you've had Citronelle's fries before, you'll instantly recognize what I mean here. After dinner comes the cheese course (if you're quirky and want to go backwards on the menu to order it), and this California Saint-Marcellin-looking disk (I cannot remember the name of the cheese) is baked up in a little ramekin and comes out looking like a small order of hummus, served with terrific housemade pita bread and a pear chutney with pine nuts in it. This middle-eastern riff was clever and cheeky, but it simply didn't work - the hot cheese tasting blue (it wasn't blue) and acrid, and dominating every other component on the dish. Four brilliant plates, two misses, excellent service and atmosphere, great and imaginative drinks (the wines by the glass are merely decent, not great). Not at all bad considering how short a time they've been open, and at the highest heights, this meal was a clear indication that CityZen Lounge is going to be in its own right, apart from CitiZen the Restaurant, a worthy destination for fine dining. Cheers! Rocks. P.S. CityZen Restaurant currently offers 3 courses (app, main, dessert) for $70 or a 5-course tasting menu (app, fish, meat, cheese, dessert) for $90 (nothing on the tasting menu was on the 3-course menu, but the styles of the offerings were similar. My (excellent) bartender told me that he'd see if they could serve me the 3-course at the bar, although I was perfectly content to explore the Lounge Menu instead. They are not booked for next week at this point - as of this evening, they had openings at any time next Wednesday or Thursday nights, for those curious earlybirds among us. P.P.S. The meal this evening got rather extensive, and when I asked for a copy of the lounge menu to take with me, they politely declined, saying it was against hotel policy to give out the menu for now, so I'm recalling all of these plates from memory, with the appropriate disclaimers if I miss something, but I think I'm pretty close to accurate as I was paying serious attention to what came out tonight.
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