This must be the place!
Like millions of other foodies, I’m super-curious about the cuisine of molecular gastronaut Ferran Adrià, but I despair of ever tasting it. Eating at elBulli requires years of planning and thousands of dollars in expenses (the dinner alone would set you back $400 per person), not to mention traveling to and orienteering in an obscure corner of Spain.
But I can at least eat what Adrià has eaten. The beloved chef is in town to tout Lisa Abend’s new book about elBulli, visit with chef friends and protégés (you’ll likely see José Andrés showing up here and there), and speak tonight at the 92nd Street Y.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Monday night he dined at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Tuesday morning found him eating a waffle at quite a different venue: an ancient Greek coffee shop called Old John’s Luncheonette in the Lincoln Center neighborhood. The head spins in contemplation of this fact. Despite being only 10 blocks apart, could there be a pair of restaurants more different in cuisine and outlook?
I’d never heard of the coffee shop before, and arrived to find a place probably dating to the 1950s, with comfortable booths and banquettes paved in Naugahyde in an indescribable shade of brown. The waitress wore a starched white uniform, and was one of the best that I’ve had lately.
Gastro-god Ferran Adrià sat here just 48 hours ago.
What Adrià ate.
I ordered the waffle, of course. It was the standard-issue “Belgian” waffle — round, thick, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The waffle — as you can tell by the very name — is a Dutch invention, and culinary usurper Belgium merely stole the concept for their 1964 World’s Fair pavilion in Flushing Meadows, Queens.
Thankfully, Old John’s waffle was somewhat deficient in the artificial maple flavor one usually finds. On the other hand, the waffle was dense and grainy. Not bad, but not good, either. The pork sausages I ordered on the side, however, were fantastic, and of generous girth.
A free glass of orange or grapefruit juice comes with the breakfast, and so does coffee. The all-in price: $8.95.
Of the waffle, Adria reportedly said via an interpreter: “All food remains the same on some level. It’s you that can change it by perception. Once you understand that, you can short-circuit people’s brains.”
He was being kind — or I couldn’t summon up enough imagination early this morning to transform the waffle into something tasty. Maybe if I’d cut it into little squares and floated it in the grapefruit juice …
Old John’s Luncheonette
148 West 67th Street