Dovetail opened last year to rapturous reviews. When we visited in March, I couldn’t quite decide if it deserved all those laurels. I gave it 2½ stars, half-a-star lower than the major critics did. We were back this evening for Dovetail’s “Sunday Suppa,” a three-course meal for just $38. If the food were as good as the critics say, this would be one of the best deals in town.
Unfortunately, I had the same reaction as last time: excellent appetizers let down by disappointing entrées. Pastry chef Vera Tong’s wonderful desserts offered partial redemption. I also have the same reaction to the atmosphere. At times, Dovetail acts like it wants to be a three-star restaurant, but it doesn’t carry out the act thoroughly or consistently enough to deserve it.
I was also dismayed to find almost no red wines below $50—and those I did find were both young and obscure. I settled on a 2005 bottle of the seldom-seen Irouléguy appellation from the south of France, at $49, which they then proceeded to charge at $51 (they corrected the bill when I pointed this out). This is definitely a wine list that has not caught up to the recession.
Dovetail is still doing brisk business, but it’s not as busy as it was six months ago. I was able to reserve a 6:30 p.m. table just a few days in advance. Still, you can’t just walk in at prime time. When we left, at around 8:30 p.m., they had just turned a party away.
The meal started well. The amuse-bouche (above) was a sliver of smoked salmon wrapped around a horseradish filling. The bread service was the same terrific cornbread that Dovetail has been serving since the beginning.
All three appetizers were first-rate: an Asparagus Velouté with cream and bacon (above left), Mushroom Risotto (above center), and Sweetbreads (above right).
Among the entrées, Lamb Meatloaf (above left) was the least objectionable, but it was a bit dry. Loin of Pork (above center), served off the bone, was too tough. Prime Rib (above right) had to be sent back, as it was too rare. It came back rubbery; adding insult to injury, it carried a $12 supplement.
We had no complaint about the desseerts—a French Toast-like confection (above left) with enough butter and cream to be a meal in itself, Carrot Cake (above right) and sorbet (not pictured).
The level of accomplishment in the appetizers and desserts makes us wonder how the entrées could be as off-key as they were, but we’ve been underwhelmed by them twice, so we’re bound to conclude it’s a chronic problem. The kitchen probably turns out some great main courses (the talent is obviously there), but it hasn’t happened on either of our visits.
Dovetail (103 W. 77th Street at Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side)