What is eggs Benedict?
CUPPING ROOM CAFÉ
The Cupping Room Café is a medium-size, L-shaped restaurant surrounding a small corner bar (which, confusingly, has some table service of its own). It's pleasantly noisy, from the clatter of the coffee bar at one entrance to the clatter and clang from the liquor bar and kitchen at the other. Even noisier are the chattering patrons, whose voices bounce off the exposed brick, narrow brown paneling, and mustard-painted whatever. The music wafts erratically from swing to classical to nothing at all, and is best left off. At the inner corner of the L, you find skylight illumination that's gentle even on a sunny day. Brick arches frame stained- and clear-glass windows that look onto deeper inner walls, and the many softly glowing lamps are easy on the eyes. Popular with a social gamut ranging from local emaciated couples to well-padded outer-borough families, you can expect to find the Cupping Room crowded at peak hours. Reservations would not hurt.
The $6 mimosa is not very cold but it is large, garnished with a thick orange slice and filled with enough good champagne to make the pedigree of its orange juice undetectable and irrelevant. Coffee is served piping hot in a glass mug. The $6 bloody Mary is rich in vodka, with its spiciness buried on the bottom and a celery stick presented for a swizzle.
The $9.95 eggs Benedict is usually very good, though the price includes no drinks. The hollandaise sauce is great. Though ungarnished, it is on the thick side (it peaks when prodded), and it is poured in massive quantities. Its strength of lemon flavor varies, sometimes weak, sometimes strong. The eggs are either well poached or underpoached, not overdone. The Canadian bacon is thickly cut, well grilled, and delicious. English muffins are fork-split, maximizing their textured surface. Like the eggs, the muffins are properly done or underdone, rarely burned. The home fries' are bland even with peppers and onions in their midst, but the thickly chunked potatoes are juicy and the vegetables are crunchy.
A side dish of bacon is an exorbitant $6, but you get a lot for your money, for a restaurant: a meal-size tangle of meat sometimes artfully shredded, sometimes clumped together. Though it may have been tossed into a Fry Daddy, it comes to your table dry and crisp and hot.
For a restaurant with hosts, waiters, and buspeople all buzzing about industriously, some of them even hardwired with radio headsets, service is erratic. The waiters tend to be well-informed and attentive, even to little children. But they serve those hip-high kids water in tippable wine glasses, come back to confirm details of an order, and can misdeliver plates to the wrong tables, never mind the wrong people. I've had to ask for coffee spoons, and on one visit, though I had a bowl with around 20 well-chilled butter pats, I finally had to ask for rolls to go with them. (Rolls are served nicely hot.) Once I suffered, and once each visit saw others suffer, such long waits for checks that I thought the waiters had left for the movies.
If you're willing to risk a wait to get in or get out, the Cupping Room offers a sturdy, tasty, and filling eggs Benedict brunch. It received top ratings from my early eggs Benedict posse, but variability in the hollandaise's lemon, and in the poaching of eggs, force me to award it three stars for food, instead of four or five. When its extra-high level of food coma hits you shortly afterward, stagger down the street to Anthropologie, and curl up on their soft couches.
Rest rooms: Two women's rooms, one men's room. The men's room is clean but cramped.
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