Trading favorite eateries with a visitor from Chicago last week, I drew a gasp from the woman when I admitted to not having heard of Cafe Sabarsky on the upper east side. She waxed lyrical about the pastries, about the importance of not ordering until the contents of the refrigerated display had also been considered, and then there were the eggs….. The eggs…?
So yesterday morning after riding from 36th to 86th & 2nd to stock up on cold-weather sausages and smoked bacon from Schaller and Weber, I cruised by the Cafe on 5th Avenue to see what all the fuss was about. One look and I was back on my bike pedaling for home. I changed from my shopping clothes to ‘dining in an Austrian Cafe’ clothes, threw on some makeup, roused Sean, and dashed back uptown to make it through the door before the 11 o’clock breakfast cutoff. We were somewhat breathless and red-nosed, but with thousands of people in town for the NY Marathon, we were not out of place. Fortunately the queue was short and we even scored the cosy corner booth. What a treat! The cafe itself is part of the Neue Gallerie, a museum devoted to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design. You enter through the 86 street entrance but the view looks out to 5th Avenue and Central Park. If you were to peer through the windows at the stylish ambiance, with wood carved paneling and dimmed lights, you might think the cafe were a private club or at least a genteel dining room. The waiters wear black waistcoats and long white aprons, the kitchen is hidden, there is a gentle buzz to the room and everything is just delightful. We had a lovely older man dining with his grand-daughter on one side and a Rasputin character drinking short black coffee on the other. It was all so civilized – and that was even before the food arrived!
Sean and I both ordered the Cafe Sabarsky breakfast. First we were presented with vienna coffee and a glass of fresh orange juice on a silver tray. Then the piece de resistance – two soft boiled ( peeled ) eggs in a large martini glass, served with lightly toasted brioche and Bavarian ham, and a collection of breads and Austrian jams on the side. No wonder the Chicago woman gasped when I said I hadn’t heard of this place. The eggs were absolute perfection. So simple, just two eggs in a glass, culinary art.
If the chef can do this with eggs, imagine how spectacular the other Cafe specialties will be. Goulash soup with potatoes, handmade spatzle with wild mushrooms and tarragon, roasted sausage with riesling sauerkraut… Yes, there is a reason for winter!