A good friend, Antonia, had an important birthday recently, and Sara and I decided to invite her and her partner, Diana, to the '21' Club to celebrate.
I’m sure most of you reading this know about the restaurant, founded as a speakeasy during Prohibition, which moved to its current location, 21 West 52nd St. in Manhattan, in 1930. It was famed as a gruff, dark joint serving basic food and strong drinks to successful businessmen, whose toys—symbols of the companies they own and run—hang from the ceiling of the dining room. In recent years, however, the menu and decor have been artfully spruced up, and a well-stocked wine cellar has been broadened to the point that '21' earned a Wine Spectator Grand Award in 2003.
Our table was for 6:30 p.m., early enough to take advantage of the “pre-theater” prix fixe: three courses for $40. The choices were limited, but the food was delicious. Because none of the ladies wanted steak (the house specialty), I chose chicken, garnished with ramps, favas and morels, and a bottle of white wine, recommended by wine director Phil Platt. The 2008 Pouilly-Fuissé from Domaine Romanin ($90) had depth and precision worthy of a premier cru Puligny-Montrachet, with juicy pear and white plum fruit framed by citrus and smoke. I rated it 91 points, non-blind.
I was sorely tempted, however, by the wines offered on two pages at the front of the massive list, called “Opportunities.” Bruno Giacosa’s Barbaresco Santa Stefano di Neive 1996 (95 points) was reduced from $355 to $260. Chapoutier’s Ermitage Le Pavillon 1995 (94 points) was reduced from $505 to $360. Comte de Vogüe’s Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2003 was reduced from $345 to $265. Maybe on an important birthday of my own.
WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Chardonnays from the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation in Burgundy.