Had my first experience with 71 Clinton Fresh foods on Friday and was underwhelmed. The food was good but not great, and after all that I've heard and read about the place, it was a disappointment. My dinner companion had an appetizer that was essentially sashimi -- I believe it was hamachi with walnuts. The good news is that it was excellant; the bad news is that it was by far the best thing about the meal. She also had the bass entree, which she liked but didn't love. I'm not a fan of bass so I can't really speak to that. As for my meal, the calimari stuffed with shrimp app. didn't really work (the plate came with a couple of pieces of non-stuffed calimari that was much better), and the short-ribs/hanger steak entree was good but nothing special (the short ribs, in particular, were ordinary at best). The service also was a problem, particularly early in the meal (when the restaurant was full). The waiter was not terribly helpful, and a bit disdainfull. Plus, we we were virtually ignored early on when we tried for several minutes to order with no luck -- in such a small place it is impossible that they didn't notice us looking for them and then gestering. Admittedly, the service did improve later in the meal, after the place stared to clear out (we ate on the late side), but again, in such a small space with so few diners, there really is no excuse for the inattentiveness.
About a week ago I posted my first message on this site and took the opportunity to rave about Sono and question why they were not more busy. I hadn't been there in about a month, and I had a friend in from out of town, so three of us went back yesterday. Our dinner was at 9:00 -- when we arived, there were only two other tables occupied. By 10, we were the only ones in the restaurant. I realize it's summer in NY, and they are not in a great location for weekend dining, but it's still inconceivable to me that this place is so dead. My friends and I splurged for the 7 course tasting menu, and it was spactacular. I may not remember this exactly, but the courses consisted of a large sashimi sampler (outstanding); a crab cake with an unusual tofu shell dunked in some kind of broth (wow!); rainbow trout (excellant, and I'm not a trout lover); seared toro (good, but not as good as hoped; the only partial disappointment in the meal -- it probably would have worked better raw); fois gras and eggplant (delicious); a duck entree (outstanding); and an emormous dessert sampler that also was excellant (the chocolate cake and apple pastry were particluar highlights of the plate). The meal reminded me a lot of the Omikasee (sp?) at Nobu, in that the chef was doing wonderful and inventive things with sauces in every dish, and it obviously had a very Asian theme (and lots of high-end fish). But I think, if anything, I enjoyed this meal better, and it certainly was a better value. Although not cheap by any means ($84 per person), it was too much food for one sitting, and I'm a big eater and came hungry. I swear I have no affiliation with this restaurant whatsoever (or any other, for that matter), but I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.