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NYC Weekend Review...Hurricane Club, Mesa Grill, Maialino, Gramercy Tavern...

Just got home from our annual trek down to NYC to meet some friends and eat some good food, great time as always....our review;

Friday night with a group of 6...chose The Hurricane Club. A fun place for a group of friends, a young and energetic crowd. Don't take the place to seriously and enjoy it, it is a fun spot. The food was very tasty...just order a bunch and do it family style...it comes out as it is ready, so you just dive in as its delivered. Hawaiian Rice, Hurricane Rib, Tuna Poke, and Suckling Pig were some standouts. Everyone also raved about thier drinks...I had the Bankok Julep, nice drink!

Saturday brunch at Mesa Grill....eh. We went several years back and had a great time, not so much this time around. Everything was fine, but the room was 1/2 empty, service did not have much of a pulse, and food was OK. We had a breakfast quesadilla that was very good...then a smoked chicken and sweet potato hash that really needed some texture and crunch. On the bright side....fantastic bloody mary :)

Happy hour at Maialino was fantastic, I wish we would have eaten here. What was supposed to be a pop-in turned into 2+ hours at the bar. Great bartender, the Giuseppe Rossi...which is a fantastic Rye based drink, loved it! The bartender heard me talking about how good it was and he wrote down the recipe and gave me a little tutorial on how to "burn" the orange peel so I can try it at home. From there it turned into Italian wine tasting, salumi, olives, and cheese. Just a great couple of hours in a beautiful spot. Gotta get back soon.

Dinner at Gramercy Tavern. A quick aside; I called Gramercy 28 days prior to get a reservation and was told that it is actually 4 weeks to the calendar day, which is not always the same thing (in this case I needed to call 29 days prior). I sent a really brief email pointing that out, and to my surprise they emailed me back, apologized for the confusion and got me a table. Great customer service. The dining room is very nice, a perfect setting of upscale without feeling stuffy. The appetizers were good (I had smoked trout, wife had Ruby Shrimp w beans)...but the mains were great. I had a duck breast and confit, with mushrooms and brussel sprouts, my wife had sea bass with spaghetti squash in a great sherry sauce. We thought both dishes were fantastic, and paired nicely with a red burgundy the sommelier chose for us. And the desserts were insanely good; both the warm chocolate bread pudding and Peanut Butter Semifreddo.

See ya next year...

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Gramercy Tavern
42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

Mesa Grill
102 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011

Maialino
2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

Hurricane Club
360 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010

Feb 19, 2012
ollavac in Manhattan

My annual request for help...anniversary dinner...

Thanks gwh912. Never even heard of Dovetail until last week, reading Adam Platt's top 100 restaurants in NYC and saw it #19 intrigued me, but I cant seem to find anyone who actually liked it.

I had too many eggs in the Gramercy Tavern basket, and now past the time for reservations at other desirable spots we were looking at.

After looking tonight we are on to Tocqueville, or my wife loved The Modern Bar Room, considering a return trip...but will check out Jungsik now...

Jan 22, 2012
ollavac in Manhattan

My annual request for help...anniversary dinner...

Thanks RGR. Love your reviews on here btw, and Tocqueville was not on our radar. Will check it out!

Jan 22, 2012
ollavac in Manhattan

My annual request for help...anniversary dinner...

Thanks deepfry7. My thoughts are essentially the same on Marea, and Forgione...although if the food is worth it, I still want to get there at some point. Annisa was actually high on the list, but all booked up, as is Bouley. My wife is liking the look of Dovetails menu...might be heading in that direction...

My call back and get on the GT wait list, was frustrated at the time so did not initially.

Jan 22, 2012
ollavac in Manhattan

My annual request for help...anniversary dinner...

Hi All...coming to you again for help with my annual anniversary trip to NYC. Last yearsyear recommendations of The Modern and Ai Fiore were great!

Only one night this year, and my plan was Gramercy Tavern, but I somehow screwed up the reservation system; webite says 28 days in advance, however when I called today they said it is actually 4 weeks to the calendar day...not always the same, and since January has 31 days I needed to call yesterday...29 days in advance. Oh well, my loss.

Anyway...now looking at Dovetail, Aldea, Boulud Sud, and maybe Marea at the moment. Maybe Marc Forgione based on a friends recommendation. Looking for great food in a somewhat relaxed atmosphere. No stuffy or pretentious rooms/staff...just great food in a great place.

What would you choose between them??? Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks!!!

Jan 22, 2012
ollavac in Manhattan

UES dinner for a group of guys...

Friend is at 80th and 1st . 5 guys in the party, money not really an issue, but not looking for fancy per se (no pun intended :). Want to be somewhat casual, fun, great food. Steakhouse would be great, do not know of any in the area.

Jul 24, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

UES dinner for a group of guys...

OK, so a small guys night planned in a few weeks, want to stay near friends apartment in UES...but want to eat well and have some fun! No steakhouses that I know of....what recommendations can the hounds give me???

Jul 23, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

NYC Weekend Review; Ai Fiore, Esca, The Modern...

So my wife and I had our big NYC weekend, 3 meals; Esca, Ai Fiore, and The Bar Room @ The Modern. Here is a rambling review of what we thought, in descending order of preference...

3. Esca (lunch). Nice little place, bright and airy, made us forget about the brutal cold outside. Great cocktails - my wife had a blood orange belini, I the "Milano", a spin on a manhattan. Unfortunately, that is the best part of the review, as Esca became our first letdown at a Mario Batali restaurant. My wife did the crudo tasting which was serviceable enough - a 2 minute razor clam ceviche with lime, chili, and mint. Spanish mackerel, and Fluke rounded out the options. It was all tasty, just nothing special to us. I am a sucker for fried fish, so got the Fritti. There was a nice crisp crust on the monkfish cheeks and clams, but they were woefully under seasoned for my taste. What saved the dish was the house made tartar with lots of capers and tarragon, delicious stuff. We split the Spaghetti Neri as a 2nd course. A few problems here; I admittedly like my pasta on the firm side, but this squid ink pasta was flat out overcooked, almost toothless. It was then very overdressed in a spicy tomato sauce. There was no way the pasta or cuttlefish flavors were going to get through all that chili. 3rd course was a piece of seared tuna, but the real star on the plate was the roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta, which does not speak well for the tuna...but those were some delicious brussel sprouts! The service was excellent, but for an expensive lunch, it was pretty disappointing food-wise.

2. Ai Fiore. Just fabulous. The entrance into The Setai Hotel is striking, up a set of stairs looking down on 5th ave to a classy bar and nicely appointed dining room. For me, it walked that fine line between being high end but not stuffy. We had some friends with us who don't typically do fine dining, Ai Fiore did not disappoint. They have a great cocktail list, so plan on trying one; my wife had the spiced pear sgroppino (similar to a belini), I had the Bohemio, a tequila based cocktail, that was just delicious and got us started off in the right direction. We were then seated in the far corner of the dining room giving us a great view of the room. The staff here is wonderful, and there is a lot of them...at one point we commented that there were more staff than diners, and the place was full! The pacing of the meal was great, we did the 4 course prix fixe with wine pairings (which I'd highly recommend, and was a good deal at $45 each, more on that later), we were there for just over 3 hours including cocktails. Sounds like a long time, but we were enjoying the whole experience so much that it really flew by.

1st course for my wife was called Granchio - blue crab, avacado, and grapefruit. Bright and delicious, sweet crab, buttery avacado and the citrus of the grapefruit played perfectly together. I had the Mare e Monte; a beautiful presentation of scallops, black truffles, and bone marrow served in a bone. The earthy truffles and rich bone marrow carry the dish, the scallops were there texturally, but there delicate flavor had a hard time getting through. That said, it was a fun dish that I enjoyed. Course 2 was the Veal Agnolotti, quite possible the single best pasta dish I've ever had. It was perfect. The pasta was just right, providing enough substance to the braised veal inside. The veal was tender, delicious and everything braised meats should be. All lightly coated in a brown butter sauce and a piece of fried sage. They paired this with a nice Barbaresco. A large bowl of those agnolotti and I could have stopped right there and been content. My wife had the Trofie Nero, which was also excellent. You can see that Michael White shines when it comes to pasta. For our third course, we both had the Astice, you know, the dish the NY Post called the best dish in the world. That is a tough label to live up to, but this was a pretty incredible dish. I could not find fault anywhere in this dish, not sure it could have been made any better. For dessert, the waiter recommended, and I happily had the Baba al Rhum. After all the rich food of the night, this was a nice tropical fruit salad, alongside a rum soaked brioche type bread, very nice dessert.

If there is any complaint at Ai Fiori, and this is nitpicking, but the wine pours were very small...and they came to talk about each wine pairing and pour a solid 5-10 minutes before each course...leaving you staring at a nice glass of wine that you can't start drinking or it would be gone by the time food arrived. Make the pairing $60 and pour a little more, it would still be a good deal.

1. The Modern - Bar Room. We initially had a reservation in The Dining Room, but at the suggestion of my boss, we switched to The Bar Room....and so glad we did. This turned out to be one of the best dining experiences we have ever had. The room is very contemporary, but has a great, lively vibe. With Jazz playing lightly on the sound system in the background, this was fine dining in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. We arrived a bit early and started at the bar with a Modern Martini...almost a cross between a martini, mojito, and margarita. A nice drink. My wife had a nice glass of champagne. Once seated, we asked for the sommelier to provide a per course pairing, which he was happy to do. The staff at every stop, from welcoming us in, to the bar, to the waitstaff...was excellent. I started with Jamon Mangalica; a luscious cured ham that was just delicious....fatty, nutty goodness. My wife had the upside down tuna tarte, that she devoured and called the best she has ever had; a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. 2nd course my wife had the grilled scallops with roasted beets, and we were both wowed by this one as well; perfectly grilled scallops and this amazing beet sauce, hazelnuts...it was amazing. If you like scallpos, you've got to try this dish. I had the Maine Lobster Pappardelle, beautifully done fresh sheets of pasta, sweet maine lobster, with a rich buttery sauce that I could not help but sop up with my bread. This was paired with an out of this world Pinot Noir called Copain Goutte d'Art 2009...try it...i found it amazing. My wife finished with the roasted duck breast, perfectly cooked with crisp skin, nice layer of fat, and perfect medium rare duck underneath it all. The truffle pastachio sauce was a great dipping sauce. I had the beef tenderloin which was cooked a perfect medium rare, and sprinkled with sea salt. Served alongside this killer rich oxtail bread pudding, and these pan blistered little green peppers....not sure of the name, but they added a great earthy spice to the dish. Along with the Sinsket Cabernet Franc, it was a fantastic combination and left nothing to be desired. We finished with a sinful dark chocolate torte, that left you completely satisfied and feeling like you'd just finished up a truly special night out. Not a single complaint about our experience here, can't wait to go back.

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Esca
402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

Ai Fiori
400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

Feb 21, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

Modern Dining Rm - recommendations wanted

nice NYC dining weekend coming up. Ai Fiori on Fri, The Modern Dining Rm on Sat. Will be seafod all the way through on Fri @ Ai Fiori...looking for any recomendations not to miss at The Modern, going for more of a warm/winter type meal with some nice red wine. If I were there right now, the 4 course would be;

Oven Roasted Trumpet Royale Mushrooms...
Sepia Risotto...
Modern Pot Eu Feu...
Manjari Chocolate Palet...

Anything you would recommend be changed??? Some of those 2nd course options look good, the potatoe gateau, alaskan king crab, etc. Tough choices!

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Ai Fiori
400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

Feb 13, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

Ai Fiore menu question

OK, likely a stupid questions here, but bear with me; I am going to Ai Fiore on Friday, planning on the 4 course prix fixe. Underneath that, it states "Cominciare/pasta or risotto/pesce or carne/dolce". What the hell are they talking about? I assume the prix fixe is 1) cominciare 2)pasta or risotto 3)pesce or carne 4)dolce.

Am I missing something???

Feb 12, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

DB Bistro room question

Thanks ellenost, I've just contacted them to request the back room.

Jan 30, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

DB Bistro room question

Hi all. Coming into town for dinner/show, eating at DB Bistro Moderne one night. Its our anniversary....what room do you recommend ...front or back? I was planning on the requesting the front as it seems more relaxed and my wife hates "stuffy", but it is our anniversary...don't want to feel like I'm sitting in a bar. Let me know what you think...Thanks!

Also trying Ai Fiori while in town...should be a few nights of good eating :)

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DB Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036

Ai Fiori
400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

Jan 30, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

Cocktails, Upper West Side

OK...have a work function near 72nd and Central park West this weekend...need a place for 15 to meet and have cocktails as close to that location as possible...any recommendations? Looking for a nice place, cocktail lounge type environment. Thanks!!!

Jan 25, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

Theater district lunch?

Hi All - Doing a NYC day next month, seeing a show and doing dinner at DB Bistro Moderne. Looking to add a nice lunch to the mix, was thinking Esca...Batali has always been good to me :)

Is there a better lunch option in that area I should be considering???

Thanks!

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DB Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036

Jan 25, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

Restaurant recommendation for large group/work function

Thanks all. Trying to get into Otto through thier group dining contact. I get that Carmines is average stuff, but fit the bill for a large group, family style dining, etc. Let's hope Otto can get us in. Thanks!

Jan 08, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan

Restaurant recommendation for large group/work function

Hey all...need some help. Have a group of 14, looking for a moderately priced but fun location for a work function. To give you an idea, we were thinking Carmines for it's family style service and menu...but it's booked solid (1/29). Any ideas???

Jan 07, 2011
ollavac in Manhattan