A Review of the Restaurant Bond 45
by Tony Phillips
One hates to sound jaded, but the swank, new restaurant Bond 45 was pitched Monday, assigned Wednesday and “been there, done that” by Friday night’s reservation. Who could have guessed Monday would hold a swell party brimming with elbows to be rubbed — from downtown lights like Charles Busch and Julie Halston to the incandescent cast of Spamalot — while bouncing merrily along burgundy leather banquettes swilling sidecars under the red light of Bond 45’s tiny bordello lampshades? Well, anyone who bothered to look at the invite for Monday night’s Actor’s Fund benefit, but after one reads Busch, Halston and their rarely-performed, 1985 hit Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, it’s time to stop reading and start respondez-vous-ing.
Of course, post-fabulous ennui is nothing new to The Broadway. Consider last year’s model: opening night hotspot Noche. It sits tarped and empty. One can only wonder if the demolition crew that took down the building next door was off by a digit. It’s an abject lesson Shelly Fireman must have learned already. After all, he counts Fiorello’s at Lincoln Center and Trattoria Del Arte at Carnegie Hall among The Fireman Hospitality Goup’s holdings. Sheldon knows from post-theater supping and the half-life of hot on The Broadway. But Bond predates Mamma Mia!, even the bygone era of sleaze when it housed a seedy Times Square disco and discount men’s clothier. It dates back to leaseholder Oscar Hammerstein and Flo launching his Follies on the roof, but this new staff hoofs like Ziegfeld girls on a hamster wheel. Maybe they’re dancing as fast as they can.
On the night we dined, our waiter, Anthony, did jazz hands atop our menus and then a kick-ball-change away from table, only to return five minutes later to explain the kitchen “beats the hell out of the house special: a gorgeous piece of veal we leave on the bone and serve parm.” Parm? “When did he stop being gay?” my date inquired. The whole thing read HB Studio exercise crossing a line. One could imagine Anthony muttering, “And…end scene” walking away from table.
But one of us could work with him. The other quickly ordered another house specialty: The Anna Magnani Negroni ($10.00). Anthony didn’t know how this overpriced, noxious thimble of brandy, Campari and Nyquil came to be named after the Oscar-winning Italian actress. Neither did my film mentor, Janet, but after a few more, she’d need phonetic cue cards to keep running lines with Anthony. We ordered some dishes “for the table” — a mixed Caldi Di Mare ($21.50) and a 15-inch Pantondo ($22.00) remembered fondly from the party — and waited to see what persona would deliver them. Our walking piece of flair didn’t disappoint, placing the crispy, cheese-filled focaccia down on the table and proclaiming, “It’s Pantondo-rageous!”
Things picked up considerably when our entrees — the Prime Rib of Beef ($25.00) and Sea Bass ($22.00) — arrived along with Broadway legend Marsha Mason. Seated directly adjacent our primo corner banquette, suddenly Bond 45 poured on the charm. This Italian trattoria turned a corner to France: a piss-elegant, Place Pigalle brasserie, all rails and mirrors. The entrees were an Atkins’ wet dream. This Bond is decidedly sans Broccoli. Or any other carb. My beef was cooked precisely as ordered. The good doctor would have frowned on the heavy slather of salty, brown au jus, but it was thick enough to scrape off revealing a fine cut of meat. My date’s sea bass was served with just a pinch of seasoning salmoriglio, skin removed, then rewrapped around the steaming, succulent meat. Bravo maestro di cucina: Brando De Oliveira. No matter how famous, we’ll never bring along our own chef. Our own waiter, possibly, but chef, never.
Speaking of famous, let’s get back to the real dish: Ms. Mason, performing across the street in the Broadway revival of Steel Magnolias. Janet and I have a hard and fast rule: never approach a celebrity mid-bodily function: eating, sleeping, eliminating — I only broke it only once, and just the last part; again, sorry, Mr. Vagoda, but that’s why they have stalls — so while we didn’t actually speak to Ms. Mason — okay, she smiled at my “Juice is better, Shelby” line ordering drinks — her very presence bumped the ambiance up a star in a way Anthony’s wide-eyed David Hasselhoff’s sighting could not.
After some passive aggressive weirdness courtesy Anthony around dessert — “Try the cheesecake, it just came in and it’s delish. Oh, sorry, we’re all out of cheesecake” — we settled on the Profiteroles and Double Cannoli ($7.95 each). They were slightly off, one filled with brain-freezing vanilla ice cream, the other smothered in blueberry sauce that read more blintz than ginz’. Apparently rehearsing his next triumph — Butterfield 8 — Anthony came sauntering back to table sipping a glass of white wine to drop the check, assuring us “no rush.” He was nice enough to return with a glass for my friend, interrupting the Mexican standoff: Mason versus Fireman. Guess who lost when the house lights glared and the front door was propped open a few minutes later? We squared our bill, and, as she was done eating said a quick, “Goodbye, Girl,” figuring less than $200 is still better than market for both Bond and gagged.