My wife and I were going to see John Oliver at the Comedy Club last night. We reserved via OpenTable a couple of weeks before at nearby Spezie, which looked interesting and had a bit of a Roberto Donna pedigree.
We showed up five minutes before our 8 p.m. reservation time, checked in at the maitre d' stand, were seated, received menus, bread and water. We were then ignored for a half-hour, never even getting to order wine. When our waiter finally reappeared, he took the orders of an adjacent table who had been seated *after* we closed our menus and wine list, before approaching us. I asked him why he had taken that table's orders before ours, and he had no reply. That was it. As we left, I asked at the maitre d' stand for the manager, and explained to him why we were leaving. My wife works a block away, but I seriously doubt that they'll ever receive any of our business.
To cap it off, they lied to OpenTable and reported that we never showed up. Nice people, eh?
So we strolled over to Smith and Wollensky, which had plenty of empty tables, and were seated immediately. ( I should probably mention in advance that I generally despise steakhouses.)
My wife ordered from the Restaurant Week menu at $35, having the Wollensky salad, a fillet of beef, and chocolate cake for dessert. I ordered from the regular menu, their signature split pea soup ($7.50), and the "Butcher's Cut" prime rib ($35). Not having enough time before the show to drink our usual bottle, we ordered two glasses of a chenin blanc / viognier blend, and two glasses of an Argentine malbec (or "melbec", as the wine list calls it).
Of course, it being the night from hell, our waiter returned a few minutes later (8:45) to tell me that they were out of prime rib. So I settled for their veal chop rib eye ($36), medium rare, and an order of fries.
My wife's salad and my pea soup were excellent. The fries were excellent. Both meats were disappointing. My wife's fillet tasted fine, and was done nicely medium rare inside, but the outside was an unappetizing uniform grey, with no marks whatsoever. My veal chop had faint marking on the outside, but no seared crust whatsoever. Inside, it was rare or bleu, nowhere near the specified medium rare. The cut itself was small and not of very good quality, riddled with sinew.
As the dishes were cleared, my wife's cake was delivered. I was never offered a dessert menu or asked if I wanted to order a dessert, so I hailed the waitress and asked for a slice of plain "New York" cheesecake.
The cheesecake was not at all New York style -- Lindys and Katz's have nothing to fear. It was good, with a good, straightforward graham cracker crust, though heavier on the ricotta and thus lighter in texture than true New York style. My wife's chocolate cake was decent, although odd in one regard -- for Restaurant Week, (without advising that they were doing this), they took their regular four-layer chocolate cake and only served the top two layers of a normal slice. How cheap -- and dishonest - is that? (Yes, I did view the entire normal slice displayed on their dessert cart in the rear of the dining room.)
So we had the dining night from hell. Coupled with our disappointment with the food at i Ricchi, that area of downtown doesn't look very promising.
Fortunately, John Oliver was incredibly funny, and rescued the evening. Highly recommended if you get a chance to see him do stand-up. Just eat first at one of your tried-and-true restaurants.