Cover Story: The Five-Star Meal Deal

'Cheap' lunch offers chance for Maisonette virgin to sample the good life

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Sean Hughes/

I know what you're thinking: The Maisonette? A deal? Well, they've been advertising some relatively cheap prices, considering their 190 consecutive stars. On weekdays, a two-course lunch goes for $20 or three courses for $30.

We showed up five minutes early for our 1 o'clock reservation on a Wednesday afternoon and were instructed to wait until 1 for our table. The dining room was about half full of suits. When our table was ready, we were led to one of those love seats where you sit side by side. We asked instead to sit across from each other and were quickly obliged. In retelling this story to our esteemed arts editor, he informed me they're actually called banquettes. La de dah.

Not wanting to blow our budget, we just ordered Cokes. They were the small glass-bottled kind and had a Nascar logo on them. Every three sips someone walking by would reach over and pour more into my glass. Whether or not that justifies their $4 price, I'm not sure.

For the two-course lunch you can mix and match appetizers, entrées and desserts. I started with the Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad, a tangy stack of red and yellow tomatoes in a light dressing. My guest ordered the Chicken Noodle Soup. He first ordered the Lobster Bisque but switched at the server's suggestion that it was too similar to his entrée. The broth was so thick and creamy that when he dipped his spoon in he could no longer see it.

Now, when I think of fancy lunch I expect weird things like Lobster Club Sandwiches. They actually have those, but also items like The Maisonette Duo de Boeuf et de Homard and Le Steak Frites N.Y.

I ordered simple with the Roasted Chicken Breast with Thyme served with green beans and whipped potatoes. My grandmother would have loved it. The chicken was very juicy, and the three items together were more than I could finish. My guest's, on the other hand, was a petite portion of Crab Soufflé that was artfully served by spooning lobster sauce into it from the top. He remarked after tasting it that he didn't think he actually liked soufflé, but the sauce was to die for. He was even seen spooning the extra sauce into his empty cup and dipping bread in it.

Now this is where the lunch deal technically stops, but while waiting for our food the desert cart rolled by numerous times. My guest couldn't resist trying their signature dessert, chocolate mousse, and I had the crème brulée. Both were worth the splurge.

Although the food was tasty and the service quite attentive, it wasn't, as I'd expected, the Best Lunch Ever. Having never been to the Maisonette I was excited for what I was sure would be a taste-bud-shattering experience. My expectations were perhaps of the impossible-to-be-met kind.

But thanks to the lunch prices, I was at least able to have the experience of sitting in the Maisonette, critiquing their nosey servers, pumpkin-colored drop ceiling and the busboy who knocked a pair of salt and pepper shakers on the floor and put them right back on the table.

Fine dining might be a taste I've not yet acquired, which is OK, because my pocketbook certainly hasn't either. Let's just say when I got the check the total was over double what I'd expected to spend, though compared to the checks of some of the other patrons it was probably still a steal.

In order to make this a deal, it's important to stick to a two-course-and-ice-water plan.

The Maisonette, 114 E. Sixth St., 513-721-2260.

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