Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Lark.

The phone rang at 9:30 this morning. Ordinarily I would be awake by now, I would be drinking my tea and reading the paper cross-legged on my bed, with the tv on and turned to the Food Network. But yesterday was hot, and the night was stuffy, and I lay awake until quite late, later than I had been awake for a long time. So when the phone rang, I was deeply asleep, in that deep sleep that makes you feel like you are being sluggishly dragged from deep water by your hair when the phone rings. Without my glasses on I fell out of bed and groped my way across the room, only to find that the phone was not in its cradle. By the time I made my way to the kitchen - still with my eyes closed - and found the phone, it had stopped ringing. And then my cell phone - somewhere on the floor next to my bed - began to ring. It was the boss*. I had to go to work. She only calls me if she is desperate. I didn't really want to go to the movies, anyway. Nor did I want to spend the day cleaning my apartment. Besides, if I went to work today - a rare Sunday off - I could go to Lark for dinner.

Again it is quiet. People must be on vacation; there are empty tables and only four servers. The chef must be off tonight; there are no specials, which allow me to go ahead with my original plan: a nettle soup, the steak tartare. My waiter is rather startled, and then amused, when I tell him that I am glad there are no specials tonight; they are too distracting. The soup is creamy, green against the crisp, golden sunchoke chips. As always, there are two kinds of bread, a baguette and some sort of earthy levain. I prefer the baguette, and manage to eat nearly all of it when my main course arrives. The steak tartare comes with a little salad - I am glad I did not order another one and had the soup instead - and triangles of buttery toasted brioche. The beef is rich and flavored with bits of onion and capers, capped with a tiny quail egg, which I stir into the chopped steak before spreading it on the still-warm toast, and the first few bites have that exquisite contrast of hot and cold, soft and crisp. Last time I had it the steak tartare came with crackers; the brioche is a better match, I think, warm and light and just firm enough to hold the steak without collapsing, but still soft inside.

Again I have the coconut sorbet - it is as good as I remember - and chase the bits of mango around my plate with a spoon, wishing they served the sorbet layered in a bowl instead of spread across a plate. Perhaps I will ask them about it next time.

*A true story about the boss. One weekend several years ago, when my mother was out of town, and I was either so deeply asleep that I didn't hear the phone or was also out of town, my father was woken by the telephone around 8:30 on a Sunday morning. He managed to find the phone, but the other person had hung up. Of course, he was now awake, if reluctantly. Half an hour later, the phone rang again. This time, when he answered, he was greeted by a perky Oh good, you're awake! on the other end. Even this is not a true story, it is something that I can easily imagine happening.

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