Friday
Jan062006

Nobu

I had lunch at Nobu on Wednesday, probably my 4th or 5th time at the restaurant, always for lunch. (Accounts of two past visits can be found here and here.)

As I have noted before, if you show up without a reservation at 11:45 or noon, you will invariably be seated. In the past, we’ve always been told that we’d have to be finished by 1:30, or so. No such guidance this week; even when we left, at 2pm, the restaurant was not full.

I started with a salmon skin roll, which was very good, if not quite offering the taste explosion of the best sushi restaurants. My colleague and I shared four of the signature dishes: yellowtail tartar with caviar and wasabe sauce; spicy rock shrimp tempura; squid “pasta”, and miso black cod. I think the squid pasta has lost a bit of its lustre; when you get over the novelty, it is really nothing special. But the others are all top-notch, and it is no surprise that they bring the miso black cod last. Although imitated a hundred times over, there is still no miso black cod like Nobu’s.

I finished with an apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream, and while you don’t think of Nobu for its desserts, this was beautifully prepared and a sensory pleasure.

Service was excellent.

As an unrelated aside, did you ever wonder why you can’t get through to Nobu on the reservation line? At lunch time, there are five phone operators sitting at a booth near the front door. They are the reservations department. While waiting for my coat, I overheard one of them telling the others about a recent social event she’d attended. The phone rang: “Nobu, can you hold, please?” After putting the caller on hold, she finished her story about the social event.

Nobu (105 Hudson Street at Franklin Street, TriBeCa)

Food: ***
Service: ***
Ambiance: **
Overall: ***

Friday
Jan062006

Fig & Olive

Is there a sommelier in the house? An Olive Oil sommelier, that is?

You’ll find one at Fig & Olive. On entering, you notice a striking back-lit wall at the far end of the restaurant, with what look like wine bottles on display. But those bottles contain olive oil.

After you arrive, your server drops off a plate of soft bread and a ceramic dish with three small compartments, each containing a splash of olive oil. He explains each olive oil sample with the kind of lexicon usually reserved for wine or liquor (“buttery notes with an oaky taste and a smooth finish” — that sort of thing). The bread, “our freshly baked olive fougasse bread,” is perfect for dipping. My friend and I couldn’t exactly perceive the various tastes he had described, although we could tell the three olive oils were subtly different.

Indeed, olive oil takes center stage at Fig and Olive. Almost every dish mentions which olive oil it is prepared with. For instance, I started with a Fig Jamon Goat Cheese Carpaccio, which comes with 18 month cured Spanish ham, warm goat cheese, sherry vinegar, and Aguibal Arbequina Olive Oil (from Spain, I gather). That’s a lot of ingredients, but they go together perfectly. This was a terrific dish.

My dining partner had a French-inspired starter, Saumon Marine Aux Trois Agrumes, which comes with marinated raw salmon, lemon-orange-grapefruit, chive, cilantro, and Moulin Baussy Olive Oil. This was a nearly entrée-sized portion. (She had started with a salad, which was also an ample size, and she was quite pleased with it.)

Both of these selections ($12 each) are in a section of the menu labeled Carpaccio and Tasting Plates, priced in the $10-14 range. Salads are $12-15, soups are $6.95, Tartines (served till 6pm) are $9.50-$13.50. Various tasting plates (vegetables, crostini, chesse, meats) are available; for instance, six cheeses for $14, or four vegetables for $16. Everything seems to come with olive oil and figs.

Main courses (served after 6pm) are $15-24. I had the Salmon with Carmelized Fig and Orange ($19), which comes with Mahjoub Tunisian Olive Oil. This dish was not as successful as the starter. Initially, I was intrigued with the carmelized exterior of the salmon, but the dish had no staying power. About midway through the dish, I concluded that the fish itself was over-cooked, and dry.

Service lapses abounded. When I selected a white wine at $36, the server informed me that it was not cold, and suggested another at $10 more. Now, I am always happy when a server directs me to a better wine choice, but when I have selected a $36 bottle (and this restaurant has plenty of choices at that price point), his recommendation should be in my range. I ignored his advice and chose something else, with which we were delighted.

At another point, he brought out an olive oil, but then held it up to his nose and sniffed before describing it. My dining partner’s entrée was brought out while she was still eating her appetizer. After finishing my appetizer, I had left my knife and fork on the plate—clearly suggesting I wanted them replaced. Instead, when the plate was cleared, my dirty knife and fork were returned to me.

The no-nonsense décor gives olive oil bottles center stage. Tables are metallic and rather closely-spaced, and the noise level is above average. Fig and Olive may be a one-trick restaurant, but its considerable charm in the olive oil department, at a moderate price point, makes this restaurant worth a try.

Fig & Olive (808 Lexington Avenue at 62nd Street, Upper East Side)

Food: *
Service: Fair
Ambiance: *
Overall: *

Monday
Jan022006

Perish the Thought: Kerry in '08??

An article today on Yahoo! News says “Kerry Positioned for ‘08 White House Bid.” Egad! A second Kerry bid is just what Democrats don’t need. Even his presence in the primaries will reinforce the party’s image as soft, flip-flopping, liberal, tax-and-spenders. I don’t think Hillary Clinton is electable either, but at least she’s been tough on Iraq. Much as I oppose that war, no one that’s perceived as soft on defense—as Kerry is—will be the next President.

While Kerry has not formally declared his candidacy (it’s far too early for that), the article says that he has maintained the core of his 2004 campaign staff, continues to build a network of supporters, and continues to travel nationwide raising money—all things he’d be unlikely to do if he were content merely to be the junior Senator from Massachusetts.

The most memorable quote of the article goes to Ronald Kaufman, a former political director for the first President Bush: “I go to bed every night praying Kerry is the nominee again.” Yes, that’s right, folks. Kerry is precisely the nominee the Republicans would love to run against.

Monday
Jan022006

Picholine

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Picholine.

It seems that when I roll the dice with fine restaurants on New Year’s Eve, I keep getting snake eyes. Restaurants tend to offer a limited menu—something they can serve to hundreds of people quickly and easily—at an inflated price. I was disspointed in Ouest last year (although I’d had a good meal there on another occasion), so I suggested to my friend that we take a step up the food chain, to Picholine, mainly because it’s the best restaurant of that calibre near Lincoln Center, where we were starting our evening.

Let me be clear: I did not have a bad meal at Picholine last night. But my friend and I paid almost $800 (incl. tax & mandatory 20% tip) for a dinner that, to put it charitably, just might have been worth about a third of that. A New Year’s markup is fair, and to be expected, but a 200% mark-up? I am not so sure about that.

Picholine was serving a six-course prix fixe at $195. We began with a quartet of amuses bouches, consisting of: (1) Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Caviar; (2) Peekytoe Crab Tartelette; (3) Goat’s Cheese Gougère; (4) White Bean-Truffle Soup. These were all small, but together made a respectable first course.

There was a choice of two appetizers. We had the Sauteed Foie Gras and Wild Game Pate with a Kumquat Chutney and Port Vinaigrette. (I haven’t noted what the other appetizer choice was.) This was a superb, thick lobe of foie gras, and certainly the best dish of the evening.

For the fish course, the choice was Maine Diver Sea Scallops or Wild Striped Bass with Truffle Toast, Salsify and Oyster Jus. We both had the striped bass, which was skillfully prepared without ever rising to excellence.

For the meat course, the choice was rack of lamb or Scottish Pheasant with Crosnes, Dried Fruit, and Foie Gras Sabayon. On this dish, the accompaniments were better than the main event. One imagines Picholine’s assembly line of scores, and perhaps hundreds, of pheasant breasts, and it isn’t a pretty thought. Is high-quality pheasant available in such quantities? I found mine dry and tough.

Picholine’s cheese course is possibly the best in New York. We received a generous serving of six cheeses, none of them likely to be encountered anywhere else. We were feeling rather bloated by this time, but we did give a try to each of them:

(1) Fleur de Maquis, a sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica, encrusted in dry herbs.
(2) Roncal, a sheeps milk cheese from Navarre, Spain. This was a hard cheese, and our least favorite of the bunch.
(3) Le Moulis, a cheese from the Pyrenees, described as “semi-firm, lingering, earthy, and fecund,” whatever that means.
(4) Winnimere, a wonderful raw cow’s milk cheese from Greensboro, VT.
(5) Sprintz, a cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland that was described as “hard, majestic and profound,” whatever that means.
(6) Stilton, a cow’s milk cheese from England that had a “mineral tang.”

All quotes are from the cheese menu, which (as always at Picholine) they give you to take home, with your choices circled and numbered.

Finally, there was a dessert tasting, which consisted of four small mini-desserts on one plate. At this point my stomach was yelling “No mas!”, but I gave most of them a try. I found them unremarkable, but perhaps I wasn’t the best judge of things by that time. Mignardises, which I didn’t touch, came with the bill.

I’ve saved the most serious complaint for last. Picholine has a wonderful wine list, but we took our chances on the recommended wine pairing, at $115 per person, i.e., $230 for the two of us. At that price, we could have had two terrific half-bottles or a blow-the-doors-off full bottle, and had money left over. Instead, we put ourselves in Picholine’s hands, and went home both poorer and disappointed.

We were served just four glasses each, with no wine for the amuse or the cheese course. A little math tells you that they were charging $28.75 per glass, and for that price you expect the best, especially at a restaurant noted for its wine list. We were optimistic when we tasted the excellent sauterne that accompanied the foie gras, but what on earth were they thinking when we were served a red wine with the striped bass? I know it is not impossible to drink red wine with fish, but for a wine pairing it was bizarre. Moreover, the server advised that it’s “something new from Oregon.” For that we were paying $28.75 a glass? My friend aptly characterized it as “flat” and “lacking any body.”

For the pheasant, our server turned up with another red, which she assured us was “something bolder.” We couldn’t taste any difference at all. Several hours later, as we were reliving the meal, my friend and I concluded that they give us the same wine for both courses. We are not wine experts, but we think we can tell when something allegedly “bold” is in fact no such thing.

A mildly fizzy dessert wine came with the final course, and this was more suitable, but by now we were rather offended at what we’d been given for our $230. I’ve ordered wine pairings at a number of restaurants, and normally you get a range of provocative choices that present some strong contrasts, and really enhance the meal. Instead, we were simply ripped off. In addition, several of the wines were mis-timed (i.e., arriving well before the food they were supposed to go with).

The space at Picholine is of course lovely. Naturally, the restaurant was packed. Our reservation was at 10:30 (after the New York Philharmonic Gala), and there were still people getting seated after us. Service showed the potential for being first-rate, but on such a night, naturally there were slips. On another day, I think Picholine would do a lot better.

We paid $195 apiece for the food, $115 apiece for the wine pairing, 20% for service, and tax, for a final bill $795.93. At that price, the restaurant should be going the extra mile—nay, the extra light year—and they did not.

Picholine (35 W. 64th St. btwn Central Park West & Broadway, Upper West Side)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: ***
Overall: **

Sunday
Jan012006

Dim Sum Go Go

Mario Batali once said that there would be no losers when the Michelin New York guide came out—only winners. (His reasoning was that since this was the first guide, no one could “lose” by being de-listed or stripped of a star; there was only the upside of being listed, or getting starred.)

Well, one of the winners—for me, at least—was Dim Sum Go Go, which I tried tonight, mainly because it was the closest Chinatown restaurant in the guide to where I live.

Dim Sum Go Go (originally named that way, because it offered Dim Sum to go) has a funky, but obviously on-the-cheap, interior that’s a step above the usual Chinatown décor that comes out of a Hollywood backlot. Most of the people eating there are caucasian, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad sign. The restaurant was fairly crowded, but I was seated immediately.

Your server presents two menus, one for dim sum, and one for everything else. The “everything else” menu looks like a typical Chinese menu, while the dim sum menu is a loose sheet of paper. You place your order by checking a box next to the items you want, and a pencil is provided for this purpose. Prices are indicated by Chinese symbols, and you have to find a code at the bottom of the page to interpret them. Individual dim sum orders (3 pieces) are mostly $2.50 or $2.90 at lunch, $3.45 or $3.95 at dinner. You can have a dim sum platter or vegetarian dim sum platter (10 pieces) for $9.95/$10.95. Dumpling soup with Shark Fin is $6.00/$6.95.

I suspected that a dim sum platter wouldn’t be enough on its own, so I ordered that plus Duck Dumplings and Pumkin [sic] Cakes. The drawback of the dim sum platter is that you have no idea what you’re getting. I recognized shrimp, duck, and stuffed mushroom dumplings. The others were a wild fantasy of colors and shapes, and they were all at least interesting. Several were a bit slippery, and given my mediocre chopstick skills, did not easily make the trip from plate to mouth.

I wouldn’t recommend the pumkin cakes for a solo diner. You get three cakes about 4×2×½ inches. It’s basically like eating the filling of a pumpkin pie, without the crust. About one of these is enough, before the cloying sweetness of the dish becomes overwhelming. The main menu describes it as a dessert (which I think is more appropriate), but the dim sum menu doesn’t indicate this. I wasn’t quite full yet, so I ordered a real dessert: Tapioca with Egg Yolk, and this was wonderful.

Service was just adequate. You don’t have a server assigned to your table; you just need to flag down one of the “roving” servers. Water was offered only on request, and servers had trouble keeping water glasses full, both at my table and at others. The server who took my initial order was so busy that he didn’t even think to ask if I wanted a beverage.

William Grimes awarded one star to Dim Sum Go Go in 2001, and in his view the main menu—which I did not try—is actually superior to the dim sum. I can’t judge that, but I’ll say that a meal of just dim sum is a bit cloying. Next time, I think I’ll do dim sum as an appetizer, and then order another main course. At a total of $29.75 (incl. tax & tip) for nineteen pieces, Dim Sum Go Go was certainly kind to the wallet.

Dim Sum Go Go (5 East Broadway at Chatham Square, Chinatown)

Food: *
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Satisfactory
Overall: *

Saturday
Dec312005

Return to Danube

Note: Danube closed on August 2, 2008. It re-opened in October as Secession, a French brasserie with Italian and Austrian influences. The pseudo-Klimt décor remained in place, but with a more casual vibe. Secession closed in May 2009 after receiving scathing reviews. The space is supposed to re-open as a Japanese restaurant, Brushstroke.

*

I visited Danube for the second time last night. (An account of my first visit is here.) It remains a wonderful restaurant for a special occasion. The Klimt-inspired décor is a gem, although it occurred to me that curtains in the main dining room would be an improvement. It almost spoils the atmosphere to look out the windows and see gloomy Hudson Street outside.

Although Danube is a beautiful room—arguably one of the city’s nicest (it shares the top Zagat rating of 28 for décor)—it is not a large space. As at many New York restaurants, you could easily reach out and touch your neighbors at adjoining tables. Luckily, the room is not loud. I don’t know if it’s because diners are speaking in hushed tones, or because the heavy carpeting and tapestries absorb the sound.

There are three à la carte menus at Danube: Austrian, Modern Eclectic, and the Chef’s Market Choice. Each has two or three appetizers and anywhere between two and five main courses. You are not required to order your entire meal from the same menu. Appetizers are $9-19, but most are under $15. Mains are $26-35.

I should note that Danube has what they describe as a “tasting menu” at $85 ($155 with paired wines), but it is actually a four-course prix fixe (appetizer, fish, meat, dessert), with two or three options for each course. Anyhow, that’s not what we had on this occasion.

It is remarkable that you can have a very respectable meal at this fine restaurant for $35 total (before tax, tip, and beverages), if you order at the bottom end of the appetizers and entrées. Finding an inexpensive wine at Danube is more of a challenge, as nearly all of the selections on the long list are over $60. We found a very respectable burgundy right at $60. I thought the staff left me to struggle over the decision for rather a long time. At a restaurant of this calibre, a sommelier should come over without being asked.

The wonderful amuse bouche was a small cube of smoked salmon, with creme fraiche, cucumber salad, and mustard seed. This was a variation on the same amuse that I was served the last time. The server who deposited it at our table had an extremely thick accent, and we had to ask for the description twice.

The bread service was disappointing. Several choices of rolls were offered, but both that I tried were unimpressive. At Outback Steakhouse, you get a wonderful loaf of warm, freshly-baked pumpernickle bread. Why is it that so many high-end restaurants are content to serve perfunctory dinner rolls that were baked hours ago?

The food was a happier experience. I ordered from the Modern Eclectic menu. The restaurant is rather long-winded in its descriptions. Per the website, the appetizer was described as “Freshly Harpooned Sashimi Quality Bluefin and Hamachi Tuna, Key Lime Pickled Onion, Pumpkin Seed Oil and Sesame Mustard Dressing” ($14). This was a wonderful dish, rich and flavorful.

When the appetizer is this good, sometimes the entrée is an anti-climax, but not here. I ordered “Chestnut Honey Glazed Long Island Duck Breast with Wild Mushrooms, Corn Purée and Seared Foie Gras” ($31). The duck was luscious, tender, and enveloped in fat, while the foie gras was pure heaven.

For the record, my friend ordered two of the Austrian specialties, an Austrian ravioli ($11) and the Wiener Schnitzel ($30). She was pleased with both.

The tasting menu shows an “Elderflower Gelée with Lemon Verbena Sorbet” as a pre-dessert, and I believe this is what we were served. This was a palate-cleanser, which prepared us for the “Original Viennese Apple Strudel, Crème Anglaise and Tahitian Vanilla Ice cream” ($10). I thought this was just okay; nothing wrong with it, but rather forgettable.

Service was generally smooth and polished. Early on, I felt that we were being slightly rushed through our meal. We started with cocktails. It seemed like only a few moments had gone by, and we were placing our order, receiving the amuse, and inspecting the wine—with our cocktail glasses still half full. Yet, it was over two hours before when we left, so things slowed down considerably later on. As we departed, the staff handed us a blue Bouley bag containing a wonderful lemon coffeecake, which we enjoyed for breakfast the next morning.

While no one would call Danube inexpensive, overall it is very fairly priced for what you are getting. The New York Times ratings have been bastardized in recent years, and three stars isn’t quite what it used to be. Danube has truly earned every one of its three stars.

When Michelin’s New York City guide came out in November, eight restaurants received one of the two highest ratings. Seven of those restaurants either have now, or have had very recently, four stars from the New York Times. Danube was the eighth. What this basically means is that Danube is, in at least one reasonable opinion, the best restaurant in the city that has never had four stars from the Times. There are a handful of other plausible candidates, but I’ve certainly no argument with Danube’s extra Michelin star. It is one of the city’s best fine dining experiences.

Danube (30 Hudson Street at Duane Street, TriBeCa)

Food: ***
Service: **
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***

Wednesday
Dec282005

Angelo & Maxie's Steakhouse

Note: Angelo & Maxie’s closed in March 2011.

*

Angelo & Maxie’s Steakhouse offers a three-course lunch special for $20.99 till 3:00pm. For the appetizer, you get a tossed salad, caesar salad, or soup (today it was split pea). For the entrée, you get an 11 oz sirloin, an 8 oz filet, chicken breast, or salmon. I did not note the dessert options.

One of my super-scientific theories of fine dining is that you should never serve a salad with just one anchovy, as Angelo & Maxie’s did this afternoon. It looks like a mistake. The rest of the salad was competent, if you can excuse stale croutons, but there was one lonely, soggy anchovy. Had it wandered in uninvited from another salad, or was Angelo’s too cheap to put in another one or two of them?

One would guess that an 11-ounce sirloin is the black sheep of the steak family. The better sirloin cuts will have long since been taken by other restaurants, or for heftier portions at this restaurant. Mine arrived rare (rather than the medium rare I’d requested), and without the thick char on the outside that the better steakhouses have mastered. It was, however, a better hunk of beef than you get at Outback Steakhouse.

Well, what do you want for $20.99? Service was acceptable. The décor offers a nod to the faux art deco style, without actually committing itself to anything in particular. There is a cigar bar attached, which may be the most compelling reason to visit Angelo & Maxie’s. The restaurant is part of a six-city chain, and they’ve got their own brand of steak knives. If it’s great steak you want, you should buy a set, then take them up the road to Wolfgang’s.

A lunch special probably doesn’t show off Angelo & Maxie’s to its best advantage, so I’ll probably try it another time at dinner. But I won’t be in any rush.

Angelo & Maxie’s Steakhouse (233 Park Avenue South at 19th Street, Gramercy/Flatiron District)

Food: Satisfactory
Service: Satisfactory
Ambiance: Satisfactory
Overall: Satisfactory

Tuesday
Dec272005

City Crab & Seafood Company

The red neon sign at the corner of Park Avenue South and 19th St beckons me every time I drive by it in a taxi. I gave City Crab & Seafood Company a try last night, mainly because my ten-year-old son is fond of very few foods, but crab happens to be one of them.

The space, on three levels, is massive — outfitted like an upscale beach town fish joint. Both Ruth Reichl and Eric Asimov reviewed it for the Times, and both of them said that it is loud when crowded. It was decidedly not crowded last night, although Boxing Day is probably atypical for a restaurant that caters to a business lunch crowd. We were seated at a high-top table with bar stool chairs, which was comfortable enough, but a curious choice given the many other empty tables.

City Crab is one of those places that offers every seafood entrée grilled, broiled, sauteed, fried, or blackened. I chose the blackened scallops, since I’d never had scallops that way before. I wasn’t disappointed to receive five good-sized scallops (plus rice pilaf and cole slaw) for just $19.99. The heat of the cajun spices pretty much defined the dish, but I expected that.

I foolishly allowed my son to be upsold on the crab legs. They were $29.99 a pound, which the server said was just three legs. “Most people get a pound and a half,” he said. So we ordered that much, which turned out to be a massive, $45 portion. Even my son, who is not especially price conscious, recognized the wretched excess. He could have had a new video game for that amount. The struggle to prize the meat from the claws eventually wore him out. Even the typical adult probably wouldn’t have finished.

The bread service was better than many higher-end restaurants, and I was especially impressed with the dessert menu. It was printed with the current date, and there was a named pastry chef, which I wouldn’t have expected at this type of restaurant. My son particularly liked the oreo ice cream cake, which was perhaps the most impressive thing that we tried.

Service was generally attentive until, most curiously, after we’d received our dessert. Finding our waiter to request a check proved to be a challenge, and we had a movie to catch. Thanks mainly to that ridiculous crab order, dinner for two was $80 before tax and tip.

City Crab & Seafood Company (235 Park Avenue South at 19th Street, Gramercy)

Food: Satisfactory
Service: Satisfactory
Ambiance: *
Overall: Satisfactory

Saturday
Dec242005

Posto Envy

It’s the hottest new restaurant of the season—this year’s equivalent of Per Se. Yes, it’s Del Posto. Once upon a time, it would have been madness to open an upscale restaurant anywhere on 10th Avenue. Now, it’s the home of Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich’s “out-and-out bid for four-star recognition in a town where, as far as Italian restaurants go, three’s the max.” A $29 valet parking charge is the only nod to the restaurant’s out-of-the-way location.

Frank Bruni had a preview piece in the December 7th Times. The restaurant wasn’t open yet, although with a swipe at the overlong menu, the setup for a three-star review is in place:

Expect $240 rack of veal, $220 shoulder of pork and a $200 whole king salmon for four to eight people, to be carved within view of the table, in a flourish of high ceremony from the Old World.

The proposed menu lists nearly 20 antipasti. It has more than a dozen pasta dishes, one with a jalapeño pesto, another with a tripe ragù, another with partridge.

And there will be more than 15 other entrees, including duck wrapped in porchetta; guinea hen with pumpkin; squab with wild arugula.

One can see where Bruni is coming from: none of the current four-star restaurants has so many items on the menu. Common sense suggests that when the kitchen is trying to do so many things well, there will be a few clunkers. Here’s an early look at that long menu (hat tip: chowhound):

Antipasti —
PRESERVED TOMATOES, GRAPES, RADISHES AND BOTTARGA 17
FIRE ROASTED PEPPERS and A SARDINE 13
CAULIFLOWER SFORMATO with Skate Salad 15
COTECCHINO with Lentils and Aceto Tradizionale di Modena 18
GRILLED RADICCHIO TREVISANO with Fonduta 15
VEGETABLE FRITTO MISTO with Bagna Cauda 15
CARCIOFI alla Romana 13
FUNGHI MISTI with Puntarelle 15
SEAFOOD SALAD with Seaweed 19
SWORDFISH CARPARCCIO with Lemon and Borage 17
CUTTLEFISH and OCTOPUS in Zimino 16
RUCOLA with Shaved Goat Cheese and Three Frichi 14
TUNA, RADICCHIO, BORLOTTI and Agresto 13
VEAL SWEETBREADS Picata 16
SALUMI MISTI with Erbazzone 18
FOUR ASSAGI DI PROSCIUTTO 17

Primi —
PASTA e FAGIOLI 12
RIBOLLITA 12
SPAGHETTI with Crab, Scallions, and Jalapeno 27
RICOTTA and CHARD NUDI with Caciocavallo 21
AGNOLOTTI dal Plin 23
BUCATINI alla Gricia 18
RAVIOLI di Brasato with Brown Butter and Thyme 23
PICI with Cibreo and Black Truffles 30
FRANCOBOLLI di Sugo Finto with Tripe alla Toscana 23
GNOCCHI with Passato and Pesto 19
ORECCHIETTE with Fennel Sausage and Swiss Chard 19
PENNETTE with Skate and Fiorentina Tomatoes 19
PAPPARDELLE with Wild Boar 21
TAGLIATELLE VERDE al Ragu Bolognese 20
BIS Two Tastes of Pasta Shared by the Whole Table 21/person
TRIS Three Tastes of Pasta Shared by the Whole Table 25/person

Risotto for 2 or more —
RISSOTO with Pumpkin and Lardo 50
RISSOTO with Porcini
RISSOTO with Lobster
RISSOTO with Barolo and Castelmagno

Secondi —
ORATA in Cartoccio with Salicornia, Sweet Potatoes, and Puntarelle 27
CACCIUCCO del Posto 29
SWORDFISH Trapanese with Wild Spanish 28
COD with Hake Mantecato and Clam Salad 28
SQUAB with Wild Arugula and Sagrantino Vinegar 30
DUCK in Porchetta with Savor and Celery 29
RABBIT with Peppers Agrodolce and Eggplant 28
GRILLED PORK CHOP with Cipolline and Cardoon Puree 28
CALVES LIVER alla Veneziana with Polenta, Onions, and Brovada 27
LAMB THREE WAYS Roman Style 30
LAMB’S KIDNEYS Trifolati with Porcini, Scorzonero, and Hot Peppers 27
GRILLED ROMBO for 2 with Stuffed Onions Briciolate 70
STINCO DI VITELLO for 2 with Spaetzle and Krauti 70
VEAL RACK for 2 with Chestnuts, Shiitake, and Black Truffles 85
COSTOLETTA DI MANZO for 2 with Cesare’s Beans and Escarole 100

Per il Tavolo —
LEG OF LAMB with Carciofi, Almonds, and Rutabagas 210
PORK LOIN al Arista with Wild Fennel AND Fig Conserva
MIXED GRILL from the Macellaio for 6 with Chicory Salad 230
SALT-BAKED ARCTIC CHAR with Cauliflower Ragu and Panelle 220

Dolci —
GIANDUIA 15
Chocolate-Hazelnut, Caramelized Pears, Creme Schlag

BUDINO di Fichi 15
Warm Fig Pudding, Pomegranate Sorbetto, Zabaglione, Salty Caramel

KREMESCHNITTE 15
Semolina Mousse, Celery Marmellata, Celery-Apple Sorbetto

CROSTATA di CIOCCOLATO 15
Chocolate Tart, Orange Buttermilk Gelato, Cardamom Spuma

APRICOT CASSATA di Gelato 15
Almond cake, Brown Sugar Meringue, Apricot-Moscato Brodo

STRUDEL for 2 30
Cranberry and Apple Strudel, Stracchino Gelato, Apple Cider Concentrate

SPUMONE al Caffe e Cioccolato 15
Amaretto Crumbs, Coffee and Chocolate Cream

PALACINKE 15
Chesnut Crepes, Persimmon Semifreddo, Rum Glassato

GELATI e SORBETTI del Giorno 12
Three Tastes of our Housemade Gelati or Sorbetti

There are also two tasting menus at $120 each. I’d love to try that $210 leg of lamb, although it’s apparently a portion for six.

Gotham Gal says:

First of all, the restaurant is incredibly beautiful. You feel special the minute you walk in the door. The only other restaurant that has the intense warm high class feeling is the Four Seasons Grill room. Warm colors, great light. Everyone will look beautiful. There are few things that they did which were very clever. There is a large foyer down the middle of the restaurant which leads to a staircase and behind that is a glass enclosed kitchen. I would bet that 200 people could cook in there at the same time. It’s enormous. On the right hand side there are tables for groups of 2-4 people. On the left side of the restaurant is the bar area which has sweet couches and a long sweeping bar. Up the stairs, on the left is seating for parties of 6 or more. In essence, the loud parties can’t bother the intimate dinners for 2-4. Very clever.

Friday
Dec232005

Au Revoir V Steakhouse

V Steakhouse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s high temple of Niman Ranch beef at the Time-Warner Center, is closing tomorrow. Vongerichten told the Times, “We were not doing enough business to make it pay for the rent.”

The restaurant’s business model was dubious from the start. Charging almost $70 for steaks available elsewhere for $40, V Steakhouse had to be almost impossibly good; it was merely average. Service was excellent, and V’s appetizers were well above the typical steakhouse fare, but a thirty-dollar premium for the entrées just wasn’t going to cut it.

Frank Bruni’s one-star review for the Times may have seemed unduly harsh at the time, but Bruni was prescient when he complained of “Elaborate Dishes, Assembly Required.” I was not impressed with V Steakhouse, particularly at its outrageous price point.

The original concept of Time-Warner’s “Restaurant Collection” was to create five restaurants under one roof that would all contend for three or four stars from the Times. Two of them in fact achieved the top rating: Per Se and Masa. Café Gray is apparently successful, despite a two-star spanking from Bruni. But Vongerichten has now failed, and the fifth tenant, Charlie Trotter, never materialized, due to escalating construction costs.

Kenneth Himmel, who operates the mall for Related Urban Development, says he’s now looking for a different kind of restaurant to fill the space. He told the Times, “It has to be a bistro or brasserie, a kind of neighborhood place. We have to get food and beverage that people can eat every day and not just for special occasions into this building.”

V Steakhouse’s quasi-bordello space now goes to the scrap heap.