Long Live Lend Lease, Chubb Insurance and Geoffrey Zakarian

Winston Churchill may have been the last person who spoke as well of Lend Lease as I do, but that was in pre-historic times, in March of 1941, before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  For those Generation X, Y and Z-ers, who never heard of Pearl Harbor, it’s a naval base in Hawaii, not a rock star who OD’d.

Legislated by FDR, Lend Lease ended any US pretense of neutrality in WWII and allowed us to provide the cash-poor Brits with the current equivalent of $396 billion dollars worth of munitions to support their war efforts against Hitler. Lend Lease is also the name of the company that that rents cranes to under construction hi-rises, including the building called One57, across the street from my home, sweet, home, and where Sandy’s winds left Lend Lease’s improperly secured crane dangling dangerously enough to have the city evacuate the people who live in my building, forcing them to find somewhere to spend the aftermath.  Far be it for me to cast aspersions on anyone whose failings rewarded me with several free meals, including those at the Lambs Club which swamped my salivary glands during my post-Sandy debacle, but our building’s insurance didn’t cover any displacement costs like hotel, parking or dining, and at Lend Lease, mum was the word.  Arrrghhh!!!!  My stalwart husband saved the day by calling Chubb, the most considerate insurance carrier on the planet, who assured us if we would send them receipts, they would reimburse.

We had been in Palo Alto when the storm hit, but luckily scored a room via the Internet for when we returned, in New York at a newly-arrived-in-the-US Three-Star International hotel chain, Spain’s answer to the Econo-Lodge, at (Egad!) $388 per night. Our room had shimmering black and silver Contact-papered walls and typically European dim lighting, but a great location, location, location. It was a packed-with-disappointed-Brazilian-marathoners hotel lobby away from the Lambs Club, a dining room operated by Geoffrey Zakarian, the kvetchiest judge on The Food Network. I’m always impressed by the way he complains about minor defects in a major way. I had been wanting to try his food at The Lambs Club and now, thanks to Chubb’s generosity, I could spare no expense to subject Zakarian to the same scrutiny he gives to those who fall into his clutches.

The Lambs Club was the first US professional theater club whose members included Broadway and Hollywood royalty. It’s an American Renaissance brick building with rams’ heads embellishing its façade, which was designed by architect Stanford White, the man in the red velvet swing. The Lambs Club restaurant on the first floor has a chic, curvy art deco ambiance, dotted with red and silver torchiere lamps, red leather banquettes and ebony walls draped with photos of dead Broadway notables. Linens are white and crisp, silverware gleams and glassware glistens. Accouterments are sophisticated and first-rate, as is the food served on them. This dinner menu features only three course dinners ($49 & $68) and a five Course Tasting Menu for the Table at $105 per person. Wine pairings cost additional dough.

Having been trained from early childhood by my mother to focus on flaws, I found one immediately, vis-à-vis Zakarian’s freshly baked breads, gleaming with golden egg wash, black onions and white sesame seeds, The rolls were impossible to photograph and do justice to on the cheap digital camera I’d brought along.

For starters, the chef’s astonishing amuse, Foie Gras and Country Bread Mousseline, was a lush blend of favors and textures – a whipped egg white concoction over a crunchy base of foie gras and mushroom marmalade.  A border of roasted chicken jelly surrounded a “sandwich” filling of knife-cut, chili tweaked, yellowfin tuna tartare, which sat on a slice of naval orange under a cucumber-caviar icing, bedecked with colorful green rooibos tea leaves and nasturtiums. I happily also devoured the grilled, tender, squash-pesto, swathed delicate baby octopus Puttanesca and its accompanying spicy grilled tomato and marinated zucchini.

My dining companion was delighted to sink his incisors into his Creekstone Prime Aged Planched Roasted Steak. Adding an additional $18 to Chubb’s treat was no skin off his rib. It arrived perfectly marinated, perfectly medium rare and as juicy as a steak can be, with equally succulent roasted shallots. The wine-sauced Colorado Lamb Duet, a rib eye rare-as-requested oval surrounded by sliced sautéed scallion greens and the glazed, wonderfully oleaginous lamb neck alongside a semi-circle of sautéed sprouted seeds, preserved lemon and snow peas, were simply scrumptious.

We could not do deserts the justice they deserved because we were too full, but the flavors and consistency of the fragrant cinnamon ice cream and the double chocolate creme brulee were impressive enough to bring us back to The Lamb’s Club the following morning for the best breakfast I’ve ever had in New York, or for that matter, anywhere — a worth every superlative in the English language Caramelized Mushroom and Spinach Omelet cooked in butter and subtle olive oil, with hash brown potatoes and grilled country bread, and the unbelievably delish Soft Poached Eggs atop Anson Mills Grits with tasso ham and bitter greens.

Both of us are looking forward to the next hurricane, which may allow us to dine at The Lambs Club again, courtesy of Chubb or Lend Lease. The latter has just seen the light and has requested that we forward the bills for our displacement to them, post haste.

The Lambs Club

132 W. 44th Street

NY 10036



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