I recently read an article where Marc Vetri asserted that restaurants in Philly have to start strong and stay strong in order for them to succeed whereas restaurants in New York aren’t always held to the same standard. It’s not that New York diners aren’t as discerning as Philly ones, but rather that New York is just so over-saturated that mediocre places can easily get by due to foot traffic. Lumiere, located in Alphabet City, comes right to mind when I think on this statement.
I recently stopped into Lumiere on a rainy day while visiting my friend Rachel. We had originally planned to brunch at Root and Bone, but were in a rush and had to figure something else out due to the wait time. As we looked around the area, we noticed Lumiere, and I was completely gung-ho about dining at a cyan-colored spot named after my favorite Disney character. Sometimes I’m drawn to modern looking places, other times more rustic ones, but this restaurant was a winner with its fun atmosphere. It felt a bit campy; however, I didn’t mind this at all, especially when our waiter, who blended in by sporting some cyan-colored contacts, sat down with us to answer questions about the menu. Though this might have been off-putting to others, I loved it.
As I am prone to do during any brunch, I went for a cocktail and eggs Benedict. Sticking with a standard Kir Royale, this cocktail was pretty low on booze, but had a ton of bright raspberry flavor to it. As I was sipping on my drink, I spent a ridiculous amount of time waiting for my lukewarm Eggs Benedict to come out. When I was finally presented with my fruit, savory salad, potatoes, and eggs, Rachel and I had spent close to forty-five minutes waiting for food in a restaurant adorned with only one other occupied table. Ravenously digging into my food with watermarked utensils, I noticed the poached eggs were a bit stiff and the English muffin needed to be toasted. It wasn’t all bad though. The flavors, particularly the Hollandaise sauce and the aromatic potatoes, were solid. In addition to providing some quality ingredients, even if they were mistreated, there was enough food to completely fill me, an incredibly important aspect of any brunch. With a bit more care and better execution, I could see myself eventually enjoying this place. I might never adore it, but it certainly has room for growth.
Considering it was one of the cheapest brunches I’ve ever experienced, I can’t complain too much. A cocktail for $4? An entree with multiple sides for $13? The prices had me expecting much worse food, especially since I discovered it was still a very new restaurant. It needs a big face lift before it’ll be able to fill seats and become a spot that’s worth making a trip to, but our meal just edged on ‘okay’ enough to stay in business. The people were nice and the options were hearty, so I do want to see it succeed and provide some enjoyment to other diners in the area. With Vetri’s words in mind, I think Lumiere would quickly flounder in a city like Philly, but hopefully New York will allow it some time to develop and knock out the kinks instead of forcing it to fade away into the restaurant wasteland.