I noticed there were not any reviews for SD26 here, so I thought I would weigh in. If you are expecting the old San Domenico, forget it. Stuffy, fussy, starched and formal it's not. Loud, boisterous, informal it is. A lot of criticism has been directed towards the owners, but I disagree. In order to thrive (not survive) in todays environment, a restauranteur must maximize every bit of space. Many times this comes at a price in terms of service, intimacy, attention, etc. While SD26 succeeds brilliantly at the former, it fails at the latter.
The restaurant sits on a dark, lonely stretch of 26th street, opposite Madison Square, desolate, lonely on a bitter winter night. Oddly, the sign on SD26 isn't illuminated, adding to the melancholia. After squeezing through a narrow entrance one is greeted by blasting music from the bar. Pass the uber-cool automatic wine dispenser and your in the bar area. Keep walking through a long tunnel which has small, cubicle like rooms and your mind makes the connection; the Molkova Milk bar from A Clockwork Orange. But I digress. When you arrive at the dining room, you are dwarfed by its size, 20 foot ceilings and loudness. Jam packed on a Tuesday night, you marvel at its use of space. Tables, banquettes, booths, chef tables even stools around the massive open kitchen.
I read a lot of reviews on SD26, mostly in the mediocre to good range: So here goes my impression:
Cheese/Cured Meat Bar: Anything here is excellent; go for it. Portions very good. In fact, portions for everything were good. All plates (appetizers, mains, etc), come in small and large sizes. Light eaters can easily split a small portion. My gf and I split everything.
Prosciutto San Daniel-Velvety, melt in your mouth.
Small Grilled Vegetables-Very good
Tomato Vegetable Terrine-Very good
Large Spaghetti Chitttara-Good
Service-Terrible: Friendly, but disorganized, nobody seems to be in charge or supervising. Had to call for what seemed one waiter for 50 tables. Loads of runners, captains who seemed lost, overwhelmed, clueless. The two owners who circulate seemed oblivious to the chaos.
Conclusion: Food, price point good, but service and ambience not for the faint at heart.
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