Ice cream can be an appetizer. Olive oil can be served in powdered form. One way to tenderize an octopus is to pummel it with a KitchenAid mixer. I’m always learning new things when I go out to eat. But you’d think that after eight years of doing it, I’d have figured out how to take my wife out on a date.
At Friday Saturday Sunday, we didn’t even make it to our menus before a kindhearted waiter intervened to correct our wayward course. Or my wayward course, I should say, for it was I who waited for my lovely spouse to sit before taking a seat across from her. (You know, the better to gaze into her amber eyes.)
“You’re not sitting there!” said our host.
“Um,” said I.
“No, no, no! You sit next to her,” he exclaimed, indicating a spot that hadn’t even registered as a possibility, probably because it’s the one our two-year-old would have claimed if he weren’t at home baffling a sitter with the rules of Swiffer-mop golf. Rules arcane enough, evidently, that I’d had to erase my memories of Dating 101 to make room for them.
I slid over. My sweetheart beamed. The lesson in remedial romance, our server grinned, was on the house.
So was the wine at this 37-year-old institution — or at least that’s how the $10-a-bottle markup policy made it seem. In a city where triple retail is more common than double on wine lists, Friday Saturday Sunday reacquainted me with a feeling I’d all but forgotten since moving here from the Bay Area: excitement about ordering wine.
There was the 2006 Les Souteyrades from Domaine Saint Damien, a Robert Parker-blessed “candidate for wine of the vintage” in Gigondas, for $41. White burgundies starting at $31. American bottles from Ridge and Jordan for an affordable $50. The opportunity to taste some cru beaujolais from Pierre Chermette, whom the wine press has all but cast as the savior of this out-of-fashion region, vivid with aromas of wild yeast and flower petals.
It would be nice to have full-size glasses for some of these wines — ask for a brandy snifter if the dinky stemware gets you down — but then you’ve got to cut some slack for a place that traces its origin back to the day three friends put $6,000 in a hat. Besides, there’s something comforting about stepping into a place that doesn’t seem to have suffered a decorative update since Stephen Starr was in short pants.
Friday Saturday Sunday does show its age in its service and menu, and in the worn carpeting and chalkboard specials written in Day-Glo hues. That’s not a bad thing. The easygoing waiters are eager to please — Would we like to move away from a group of high-energy ladies at the next table? No, but it’s nice to be offered the chance! — but not so eager as to interrupt table talk, least of all to wax poetic about the kitchen’s environmental credo or how the chef’s commitment to “nose-to-tail” cooking might just save Christendom.
The kitchen is three steps behind those trends anyway. Running from Caesar salad and a pork chop with whipped potatoes to seared ahi tuna and crabcakes with jicama slaw, the menu puts one in mind of a country club that just caught wind of the 1980s. The perfunctory identical piles of sautéed zucchini that graced our two entrées reinforced that impression, but the rest of the food had more soul. The longstanding cream of mushroom soup was as classic as something out of a Junior League cookbook: heavy cream, white mushrooms and cognac — and there’s a reason I list the heavy cream first. It wasn’t nearly as woodsy and fungal as the mushroom soup at White Dog Cafe in Wayne, which by luck we’d had earlier in the day, but then it wasn’t really trying to be.
The crabcake was solid, as was a well-seasoned steak au poivre. I would gladly go back for the whole Cornish hen, relieved of all its most difficult bones and packed with a stuffing of sausage, pears, walnuts and tarragon. Why do I only eat stuffing on Thanksgiving? Because most restaurants left it behind three or 13 trends ago, probably. I’m glad this one hasn’t.
And glad that I finally made it to Friday Saturday Sunday. There are more creative menus to be found, for sure, and less expensive ones, too. But the wine program more than makes up for the latter point, and besides, there’s something to be said for a place that makes a couple of bag-eyed parents feel a little like lovebirds again. Can powdered olive oil do that?