If you don't believe that one percent of Americans control the vast majority of this country's wealth, eat at Brindille.
The night I visited, Carrie Nahabedian was casually combing the room, warmly greeting familiar faces. The chef/owner, also of nearby Naha, stopped to chat at a nearby table. "We've had one woman who's been in six times already," she mentioned to the guests. "She sat at that table every time," Nahabedian continued, gesturing toward the corner where I was seated.
Let me tell you, it was a very good seat. An intimate banquette, looking out onto the gray-hued room, the seat outfitted in fabric so refined and comfortable it was like you could caress dollar bills out of it. Not to mention the fact that we had the best views in the house of the bug-eyed frog perched on top of the kitty-corner Rainforest Cafe.
But still: six times in the, like, month that Brindille's been open? That's a lot of guinea fowl and lobster. And to be fair, it would take little to no convincing for me to return for the clafoutis, the absolute pinnacle to which any baked, fruit-dotted custard could aspire. This puffy, creamy thing is almost soufflé-like in texture and is accompanied by a bowl of whipped cream the portion size of which definitely exceeds the amount of whipped cream one is supposed to eat outside of standing next to the refrigerator door. The clafoutis comes to the table so insanely hot, and every moment you have to look at it before diving in is pure torture.
It's perfect. So are the oysters, bathed in cream and dolloped with caviar, presented on one of Brindille's many distinctive, branch-like serving pieces. (The restaurant's name means "new growth.") There are three of them, for $19, and I'm okay saying: They're worth it.
The dover sole meunière ($47, up a dollar from the initial menu, for whatever that's worth), however, is not. Portioned into small pieces rather than presented whole, the fish loses its magic. I preferred the lamb saddle ($45), fat-laced and sumptuous and accompanied by a best-of-spring array of knob onions and meltingly tender artichokes. The steak tartare is quite nice, too, though it suffers the same fate as many others around town: It's not as good as Maude's, and it costs more.
Cost is tricky at Brindille, because the tab can easily rival that of a tasting-menu restaurant, but the experience isn't quite so pampering. You see, servings are small enough that if you order less than a three-course meal, you'll probably leave hungry. So you basically have to treat Brindille like the kind of place you go to for a long, wine-fueled meal. (The wine list, like the food, is expensive, but you can get a nice bottle for $45.) And yet, there's no amuse-bouche, and the bread service is simple and not up to par (the crusts on the bread slices were soft and chewy). I get the sense that Nahabedian structured the menu this way on purpose, to provide a place that feels special in an elegant, understated way. I could see how that would make people comfortable returning, time and again, to Brindille—a certain percentage of people, anyway.