225 Columbus Ave
New York, New York 10023
Leonard’s Birthday Celebration
It was a beautiful clear blue fall day in New York City when one feels blessed and grateful to live here and walk through Central Park, eat at a local bistro and then onward to Lincoln Center for Bernstein’s Centennial Celebration. I was to hear: Joey Roukens-Boundless (Three movements-manically, glacially, propulsively); Bernstein-Serenade; and Bernstein-Symphony 1 (Jeremiah).
I have long been an admirer of Bernstein: I first became interested, not though music, but through his Harvard Lectures called the Unanswered Question. These lectures analyzed musical theory through linguistics (Chomsky: structuralism) in a way that only Bernstein could: with brilliance, charm, intensity, passion, risk and command of many languages and disciplines.
I liked this Bistro. Because bistros are conforming to the Archetype there tends to be a flattening of quality; most are average. It is rare to find a really bad one and a bit less rare to find a really good one. Cassis ranks at the higher end of the distribution!
I ordered one of their special daily wines-a natural 100% Bordeaux. It was outstanding.
Cassis has many signifiers of the Archetype: red awning on the street, waiters dressed in all black with white aprons, white marble topped tables with Thonet chairs, chalk board menu, small, comfortable bar in front, red banquet benches, soft globe lights, engraved glass divider and French posters (Vin Mariani (“Popular French Table Wine”) and Toni Kola (Vin Apertif).
The bread was good. It had that nutty flavor and aleatory structure that quality bread exhibits. I am almost always disappointed by bistro bread. Why don’t most bistros take pride in their heritage? Raise the prices if you must, but give us quality bread! Not only was the bread good it was accompanied with both butter and pate. I have not seen this before.
Even though I was here for a New York Philharmonic performance, it was not a pre-theater crowd. It was an upper West Side crowd out for dinner during the week at the local bistro. Possibly because Cassis is too far away from Lincoln Center (between 70th and 71st) or has not yet been discovered.
They had several specials: split pea soup, skate, lobster ravioli with vodka infused sauce, and a filet mignon. I opted for the split pea soup (have not seen that before in the bistro world) and the skate.
The service was very prompt and professional if a bit distant.
The pea soup was excellent-served very hot; light and subtle flavoring. This is not the pea soup we grew up with-a viscous, green mass with slices of hotdogs.
The skate was a filling dish-a large piece of fish with carrots, and roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts. The sauce was lemon, white wine and capers. The fish was cooked perfectly.
Staff: 7 (Authentically French, professional; slightly impersonal)
Archetype: 8 (Hews closely to the Archetype)
Food: 8 (Well prepared traditional bistro food; creative specials; great wine)
Energy: 9 (Noise low, Upper West Side crowd, pleasant and comfortable)
New York Philharmonic Bernstein Festival
The Unanswered Question
The Definitive Bernstein Biography is by Humphrey Burton