Antoine's is the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States and, as such, can lay claim to its share of original dishes, mysterious traditions and arcane rituals. The restaurant itself is a byzantine maze of room dedicated to bizarre design motifs and antique gatherings.
I had dinner the other night in a sparsely populated main room. The service was confident, deferential and attentive. Derrick was the waiter's name, and he looked like he only 18 and weighed 98 pounds, but his attitude was that of a man with decades of experience. My friend and I had many of the signature dishes: Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters a la Foch, Pommes de Terre Souffles and Baked Alaska.
We finished with another longtime Antoine's favorite, Cafe brulot diabolique. We had no idea what we were getting into when we ordered it. First, two warmed, long-stemmed china coffee cups came to the table. On the side of each was an illustration of Satan. Then Derrick returned with copper pan filled with brandy and spices, which he lit on fire. After letting it burn a bit, he slowly pouring in hot black coffee, stirring it until the flames subsided a bit. He then ladled a cupful into each mug while the mixture was still burning.
"How long should I wait after the fire goes out to drink it?" I asked. "Right away," said Derrick. He further explained that the coffee was named as it was because it was "Black as night and hot as Hell."