Elegance, breathtaking views and culinary delights. I am in heaven and I don’t want to leave this magical place…Dining at the newly reopened Rainbow Room, 800 feet above ground on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Center, you are promised a taste of the high life, both literally and figuratively speaking, all without needing to break the bank. This is one of those experiences that will never leave your memory.
Your name will join a guest list that has included patrons and performers such as Al Pacino, Elizabeth Taylor, Guy Lombardo, Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand, to name a few. You become part of the history of this 80-year old New York City landmarked institution.
Arrival at the Rainbow Room
I arrived with great anticipation at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for my 11:00am Sunday Brunch reservation (first seating). Staff welcome their guests every step of the way, from the bottom of the escalator, to the coat check, the check-in desk, and upon exiting the elevator that lifts you on a 45-second non-stop ride to the 65th floor. No matter who you are or where you come from, the Sunday Brunch staff (of about 45 in total) will treat you as their special guest. As I walked up the stairs to the Rainbow Room, I could hear Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” being performed live by Nightingale Jazz Band, tucked away on a balcony stage overlooking the seated guests. I have arrived!!!
Based on my experience, the average cost of a typical fine-dining Sunday brunch can run you $45 a person (excluding alcoholic beverages). But make no mistake; there is nothing “typical” about the Rainbow Room’s $95 offering ($65 for children under 12). It is hard to imagine another venue that can match the Rainbow Room, in terms of its iconic status and history, architecture and design, stunning views, attentive staff and of course the exceptional quality and selection of food. In my opinion, the experience alone is worth every penny.
Room with a View
The 15-foot tall windows are dressed with strings of crystal. The dining tables are set up around the perimeter of the room, with the buffet stations in the center on top of the famous rotating dance floor. I was seated next to one of the grand windows with a southwestern view of Manhattan, where I could see the Empire State Building, the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The sun was shining and bits of rainbow from the crystals danced across my menu and throughout the room.
I was thrilled to meet and speak with Executive Chef Jonathan Wright, the mastermind behind this culinary heaven.
“Our Sunday Brunch is inspired by local and seasonal offerings and brunch traditions,” he said. “We added white truffle risotto last week, as well as a selection of homemade pates and terrines. This week, we are adding fried chicken, foie gras waffles with pepper jelly and Andouille gumbo.” Mmmmm!!!
With 20 years of culinary experience, and having lived in Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the US, Sunday Brunch provides Wright and his team of 12 chefs the opportunity to incorporate a wide variety of dishes from different cultures.
“Brunch may be my favorite meal as a diner. Having lived in New Orleans for 4 years, I learned to love the relaxed pace and festive spirit of a leisurely meal with great food and company,” Wright shared. I couldn’t have agreed with him more.
The 14 buffet stations offer a cornucopia of food options that will be sure to please both the discerning and simple palates alike. The spread is both inviting and tempting, with stations including Asian; Indian; Salad Bar; Raw (oysters, mussels, shrimp, crab claws); Roasted meats; Charcuterie and Smoked Fish; and a traditional breakfast station.
Be sure to leave room for the dessert buffet!
Don’t even think about leaving without having indulged in at least a couple of the 45 delectable desserts. The dessert station (both the selection and presentation) is equally as impressive as the buffet stations. There are glass jars of varying sizes filled with candies, plates of colorful macaroons, blood orange paté de fruit, bananas flambé, apple crisp in individual pots, an ice cream bar and a wide selection of artistically-designed mini-desserts.
Everything is made and prepared with quality ingredients, with great attention given to the presentation. (No need to worry, the desserts are conveniently plated in small portions!)
To top off this quintessential New York experience, I was sure to order a glass of champagne, for no other reason but to simply sit back and celebrate life. (Note: On Sundays, New York State law only allows alcohol to be served after 12:00pm).
As I finished my last sip of bubbly, and realized that all good things must come to an end, I was ushered out by the lyrics of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek,” with the chorus “…heaven, I’m in heaven” being burned in my memory. Of all the things I’ve seen and done during my 10 visits to New York City, Sunday Brunch at the Rainbow Room ranks #1 for me.
Here is a short video clip I took while seated at my table… (click on the box below)
The refreshed and renovated Rainbow Room reopened to the public in October 2014, after a 5-year closure. With the exception of major holidays, the Rainbow Room is open to the public on Sunday for Brunch and Monday for dinner and dancing, while the space is used for private events on Tuesday-Thursday.
For more information on the Rainbow Room or to make a reservation (up to two months in advance), call 1-212-632-5000 or visit www.rainbowroom.com.
Note: Another special gem is “Sixty Five“, a swanky new rooftop cocktail lounge located across from the Rainbow Room, on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Center. I will write a separate post about my new favourite NYC cocktail lounge; but for now, take my word for it – if you’re looking to step it up a notch while in the Big Apple, Sixty Five is another definite “must”! )
See you next time! (Feel free to leave a comment below)
(PS…My year of world travels will soon begin! I hope you’ll be joining me! Stay tuned…)