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That said, I recently had two sensational meals at the Savoy. At the first, Marilyn, my friend Bob and I sat at the unlegendary Table 31, where we stuffed ourselves silly on meaty shrimps de Jonghe, which came lounging in a pool of rich garlic-butter sauce; then we slathered real butter onto moist, glazed cinnamon rolls before we started on our salads. At the Savoy, a Caesar is still prepared tableside, the server driving a rattling cart loaded with all the necessary accoutrements and throwing them together with varying degrees of theatrics.
No one can call the Savoy stingy with its portions or even its ingredients: the Caesar is potent with fresh garlic; and if you're a fan of blue cheese, the kitchen staff will happily sprinkle a mountain of Roquefort crumbles on the house salad. "It's a blue-cheese salad," Marilyn noted, "with lettuce on the side."
The broiled lobster tails are so large they seem to be relics of some Jurassic-era crustacean. A ravenous Bob ate the two tails that came with his dinner and still took half my top sirloin steak because "lobster and steak really taste fabulous together." The Savoy promotes that same theory, offering varying combinations of lobster with steak or clams. There's also the lavish (and, yes, expensive) Savoy Shore Dinner, which sides a giant lobster with fried shrimp and scallops and a hunk of baked snapper.
Marilyn was in a nostalgic mood and wanted her lobster "a la Newberg." In this scandalously rich 1900s invention of New York's famed Delmonico's, a lobster floats in an apricot-colored sauce of heavy cream, egg yolks and a stiff shot of sherry. A few bites of her dinner left Marilyn dizzy enough to think she really heard Judy Garland singing across the dining room. But it was actually the dulcet tones of the staff's resident tenor and weekend manager Ron Garris, who has been bursting into song in this room for two decades.
Appropriately, on my next visit, I brought along a professional singer, Cathy, who felt the kitchen hit a positively sour note with the broiled seafood casserole. Cathy's review of her dish -- stuffed shrimp, scallops, lobster and a bit of sole -- was withering. "It was left under the broiler too long," she said, poking a fork into a dried-out scallop.
Still, the rest of the meal was a showstopper. Under the attentive direction of part-time waiter Mike Maloney, Number 26 (and still a Savoy "rookie" after two years), we started with meaty, tender escargots baked in caramel-colored shells.
Unlike the disappointing seafood casserole, the Savoy's signature au poivre sirloin, generously peppered and draped in a cloak of rich cognac sauce, performed magnificently. I shared that manly slab of meat with Cathy's husband, Dan, who in turn snatched a couple of fried frog legs from my plate.
Though they've been on the Savoy's menu forever, Dan whispered that the restaurant's frog legs have lost some popularity over the years. The breading is a shade too heavy, but the gams themselves are juicy and flavorful. "We should have had them sautéed," he said.
In honor of Dan's birthday, we persuaded Garris to pull out the stops on an emotional rendition of "Danny Boy." The song made Dan blush but brought down the house -- a table of eight die-hard smokers even put down their cigs long enough to applaud.