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JeremyEG | | Apr 11, 2011 01:52 PM

Had the smaller tasting menu with wine pairing a couple weeks ago. It was my first time dining there.

The place has a chaotic feel to it and I can't put my finger on exactly why. Babbo is loud and busy as well as is Prune which is even smaller than Recette but somehow, those places feel more under control even though they've been bustling every time I've been.

We were asked for any food allergies or restrictions (none) and ordered the 5 course tasting menu and shared a wine pairing. When asked for food preferences, we said we liked everything but were especially interested in local ingredients or ingredients from farms the restaurant knows something about. I certainly wasn't expecting a Blue Hill experience or even a Gramercy Tavern experience (who made one of the best Flying Pigs pork dishes I've ever eaten!) but I was curious to see what they had in mind. Perhaps a fish or turnip or cheese from somewhere nearby or even from an interesting producer from somewhere else. The waitress told us the chef 'is all about ingredients' so that shouldn't be a problem.

What followed though was a somewhat rushed meal with almost no information about any ingredient on any plate. I did ask about the beef served in the excellent carpaccio and burratta dish and our waitress left to find someone who knew.

In addition to the beef dish, the snapper crudo was wonderful. The highlight of the meal though was the chicken skin served on the foie gras plate. It's really special and in many ways even richer than the foie. It's everything there is to love about chicken and then some. I cannot remember most of the other hot dishes but I believe there might have been two cooked seafood courses.

What did stand out though was really the least inspired and awkward wine pairing I have ever experienced. The wine was served by the woman who was hosting at the same time and it just seemed like too much for one person. Several times we were half way through the course and she would rush over, apologize for forgetting to pour, and then give only the most general info like "this wine is fruity and should be good with the food." One pairing seemed to be a course off (a delicious and oaky young chardonnay which would have been perfect with the buttery fish dish, was served a course later with something that really didn't work but I can't remember what). The low point though was a pinot being poured because it was 'the only light red they had' and that 'probably wouldn't go with the dish' so 'drink it at the end to clear your palate or something but I don't think it will work with the food.' That might have been a good time to throw a beer or glass of cava into the mix or something if there was truly no available wine that worked better with the food, something I find hard to believe.

I think that the lack of information about the ingredients, the pacing of the meal, and the wine service probably wouldn't have phased me had the meal been more modestly priced. But at $300 for the least expensive tasting and a shared wine pairing, I think the place has to iron out a few kinks. At that price, I just don't think of it as a casual but also upscale neighborhood joint. Perilla pulls that off. Recette does not.

Or perhaps it's better to order a la carte (the octopus looked really great) and maybe order wine by the bottle or even cocktails which looked wonderful. I'm interested in maybe eating at the bar as perhaps the service is better there.

I'd love to hear about others' recent experiences.


9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

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

110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

Blue Hill
75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014