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Bravo! Nader - He had to say it, we can't

We booked last minute and Maroni was full. Loved Mir pois, probably couldn't think of a local dining experience more at odds with that at Nader. Next time I'll plan further ahead.

Bravo! Nader - He had to say it, we can't

Did you ever feel there was a joke you weren’t getting, something inside that you needed to know to understand what everyone was laughing at? Well we just had that experience at the clearly misnamed Bravo! Nader. There had to be something we were missing because this was one of the worst dining experiences (which says a great deal) we’ve had and it was at a restaurant that a) has a great rep and b) was packed out the door. We’re foodies and this is a place we’ve looked forward to for a while, we didn’t expect to leave vowing never to return.

Where to begin … ah yes the wine list. As we sat a gentleman with a nice Italian accent delivered a wine list. There was just plain juice on the left and special juice on the right (as they store the just plain juice on a ceiling height shelf that runs around the restaurant which was about 80 degrees tonight, I guess we could call it cooked wine and, hopefully, refrigerated wine). I wasn’t familiar with a lot of what he had so I told him I wanted something dark and earthy, not fruit forward. He said ‘ah, Brunello di Montalcino” and pointed to a $150 bottle. As our fellow diners had not arrived and as I didn’t want to start by adding $150 to the check without asking them I told him so and asked what on the left side might be a good selection. Sadly at that point the gentleman with a nice Italian accent went deaf. No response at all. I asked again and he said “Eh, they’re all the same”. Honest, that’s what he said. He clearly had no interest in assisting if I was buying just plain wine. Sadly, it got no better.
Our companions arrived about 5 minutes late for our reservation. They sat down, menus already at their places and about 2 minutes later we were told the specials, before anyone even had a moment to look at the menu. We listened and asked a few questions and the waiter left, but good news, we were not to be alone for long. Literally less than 5 minutes later he was back asking if we were ready to order. We barely had time to say hello and sip the Rutherford Cab we had ordered (not bad) and they were on us to order. They made it clear we were here to eat and not to dine. If you had theatre tickets, this is the place to eat, too bad Broadway is so far away.

With the specials in the rear view mirror we ordered, some things were off the menu, some from the list of specials. I got the meatball and spaghetti appetizer that the menu touts highly (I believe it says ‘fabulous’ next to the selection, not as a part of the name), my wife the baked clams. Both were just food on a plate. Neither had anything at all to recommend it. The entrees came (quickly) and I had the duck in a chocolate chestnut sauce (a special0 and my wife the bronzino (another special). Who would have dreamed how badly chocolate sauce would actually be with duck and now, having had it, I can only wonder what on earth the chef was thinking. Sure, it sounds interesting and trying it in the kitchen was a good idea but the dish was so cloyingly sweet, the chocolate flavor so overpowering to the duck that he managed to kill two great flavors with one dish that should best have been left in the test kitchen. To be fair a stuffed pork chop special ordered by one of our friends was moist and tasty. They cleared our dinner dishes as we put the last forkful of food into our mouths. None of us has ever felt so uncomfortably rushed at a good restaurant ever.
We were asked if we wanted coffee but were never given desert menus or told about deserts. The growing crowd waiting for tables in the very small room made it clear that this was a plan not an accident. We’d had 2 bottles of wine , apps and entrees and we felt like we were being swept out the door as an inconvenience not as patrons most restaurants welcome. We asked about dessert and were read the menu. We ordered cannolis and the check arrived without anyone asking. It sat for about three minutes before the gentleman with a nice Italian accent came over, opened the folio, demonstrated consternation that it had not yet been filled and closed it again making clear his displeasure. On the bright side by that point we wanted to be gone as much as they wanted us gone. I took a bite of the canolli and, almost as if to mock us, it a) was the worst cannoli I have ever eaten by a country mile and b) had some unique flavor note that had no place in a cannoli and could not be removed even by copious amount of after dinner mints. I began to waive the white flag of surrender.
The moral to the story is word of mouth can’t cook good food, you can try to turn a table too many times and you can create a dining experience so unpleasant that it will be remembered for quite some time, even after the mediocrity of the food has been forgotten. The ultimate test is always “Will we return”. The answer should be clear, not for a free meal with the President. Now it may well be that on a Wednesday night with fewer rezzies this would have been a different experience but there was just nothing here to make me want to come back to find out. There are way too many good, small, chef driven, restaurants on LI for another visit.

Stella! - what to order

This obviously is a little late but the meal we had at Stella! was too good not to rave about to those who really get it.

Had the tasting menu plus a few and have to say it was on a par with anyone's, anywhere, anyttime! I've done Rubichon, Keller and a few other guys that could really cook and Stella has nothing to fear. The fois with banana was great and the chocolate cake in hot pink lemonade was both brilliant and delicious. The wine list is a little young and a lot pricey but fi you are in NO and deciding where to eat if you miss Stella you missed out. Oh yeah, hit Stanley for breakfast no matter how touristy the location.

May 17, 2009
foodies in New Orleans

Il Mulino 2007

Having heard a lot of local buzz about Il Mulino I started thinking maybe we ought to check it out. I then went through a host of food snob misgivings including the overall quality of food on LI which I think has lowered the bar in all of our minds, the fact that I never really equated Italian with haute cuisine, the fact that its location sometimes allows overpriced and pretty to triumph over unique and special.

A few recent trips to del Posto knocked any 'anti-Italian as fancy food' bias out of my mind and the recent hiring of James McDevitt, a James Beard winner from Restaurant Hapa in Scottsdale at Four Food Studio (right guy, wrong room - build him a new store!) is giving me hope that some innovative food may be coming to the 'burbs, so when friends said that's where they wanted to go I was ready.

We got there early and the initlal reaction was good. The sense of service began as you walked through the door as we were enveloped in a wave of staff, each performing their assigned duty in welcoming us. A brief, if pricy, stay at the bar (our choice, the table was ready) was, likewise, an ongoing demonstration of the quality of service that would be displayed throughout the evening.

An assault of amuse bouches (sorry, what is the plural in French?) began almost as we sat down. They weren't good, they were great! Chunks of cheese, thin sliced saussage, marinated veggies and bread (including a spicy breadstick that's worthy of note) made a statement that this would not be business as usual on LI. A decent, if young, wine list presented enough options to allow us to put all into allignment.

The specials list was overpowering and required a course in expanding your memory to take it all in. The menu itself was ample, containing all the old friends that reminded me of why I had the bias that del Posto destroyed. Our group traversed from specials to menu and back as we put together a fair sampling of the offerings (how was the Dover Sole prepared, again?). We were giving it a fair shot!

The food began to arrive and no frowns arrived with it. Sadly my wife and I ordered the same app, a ravioli with black truffle special. Sadly, because it was the most distinctive dish of the evening and we wondered what other stuuners had lived on the specials appetizer selection. The entrees were all well executed no one had a bad word to say.

The deserts were, sadly, just OK, The Zabaglione a real dissapoinment, out of synch with the balance of our evening, cheese cake OK as well. They brought around a champagne tub of infused grappas which were a nice exclamation point to the evening. All in all a positive experience and one that can be judged by any standard not just an LI standard. Now, to complete my comments you do need to understand that the meal cost as much as our meal at Gordon Ramsay did the week before. When you charge at that level you'd better produce.

We had a great evening and have no reservations about reccommending it to friends who want a good meal on LI and don't mind the price tag. For us, since we, unlike many out here, enjoy NYC and don't find it an imposition to make the drive for dinner, we will continue to dine the Apple whenver we can. As you may have guessed, our new standard, del Posto, was a far greater experience, with food that was so innovative (even if just traditional Italian but not the Americanized Italian food served in the US) and well executed that it continues to draw us back. I think, in the end, Il Mulino showed itself to be head and shoulders above most of the LI competition, even those getting high ratings elsewhere, but so much offered is standard stuff, no matter how well executed, that the challenge and excitement that sets the great apart from the really good was missing. For some, this doesn't matter, hell, for some it doesn't even make any sense. For those with whom this concept resonates, we hope these comments help.

Chinatow Brasserie - review needed

If you're looking for just great Chinese go South 10 blocks and you have better food, way smaller bills and less pretense. If you want something closer to a real dining experience (ie dinner takes longer tha 30 minutes) and Chinese food that doesn't make you feel like you're in the Boroughs (excluding Queens , of course) then this could fill the bill.

Feb 22, 2007
foodies in Manhattan

best authentic Southern buffets/restaurants in Durham, Chapel Hill area (seeking collard greens, okra, fried chicken, casserole, butter beans, etc.)?

After 6 years of visiting the Triangle Allen & Sons is as good a cue experience as I have had. Don't get me wrong, I don't pass up a visit to Bullocks but the combination of environment (Allen & Son's is basically on the train tracks) and food has me picking them every time I can only get in one good meal. Their Chess pie alone is enough to bring me there. Bob Melton's in Rocky Mount frequently has me making a giant detour on my way back to NY so I can bring a cooler of real food back to the starving masses. Heck, this is Eastern Carolina Q, it's all Manna from Heaven!!

Feb 06, 2007
foodies in Southeast