A brief summary of a recent meal a few friends had at newly opened Al Fiori, in the Setai Hotel:
Al Fiori is another Michael White restaurant, of Marea and Osteria Morini fame It opened to the public about two weeks ago. The restaurant is located in the similarly brand new Setai Hotel, part of a small luxe chain of hotels. The NY Setai is located at 36th and Fifth Avenue, a neighborhood in which one would not expect to find such a hotel. If the area around Koreatown is undergoing a renaissance its the first I am hearing of it. Al Firoi is on the second floor of the Setai.
Our meal was delicious. Great, knowledgeable service, good menu, nice wine list, pretty and large room, well spaced tables. It seemed that the restaurant was holding back tables during this opening period since only half the tables were filled, yet it is difficult to obtain a reservation. Front staff are welcoming and polite. When we were led to our table and seated, there were likely four or five staff persons simply there to greet us and or watch real customers sit.
I believe the menu is available on line. Food wise, Al Firori is similar to Marea, mostly Italian seafood, or at least that seems to be White's strong point. I thought the food similar to Marea, where we also have had an excellent meal. Price was it is not inexpensive but, for a hotel restaurant, the prices are in line with other places and, I think, perhaps a bit less than Marea. Portions, like Marea, are on the small side. And the restaurant has the same unwelcome "recommendation" that you order three courses to make a meal. Charge me a few dollars more and let me eat just two courses please.
A lobster veloute (I would call it a light bisque) made with a chestnut puree and with small bits of lobster and truffle at the bottom of the bowl was excellent. Light, flavorful, perfect. Best I have had in quite awhile. Other apps were a beautiful composed salad, blue crab with grapefruit, seared scallops and risotto. Main dishes were mostly pastas and fish for us. All were excellent. The pasta with sepia and bread crumbs, like the one at Marea was flavorful and light. It was not a terribly large portion. The friendly wine steward came up with a good recommendation when asked to pick something in a specific price range. Desserts looked good, the petit fours were very good.
All in all a good new edition to the Italian dining scene. Yes, the location is odd (though the view over looking Fifth Ave is nice), and it is in a hotel but, the food is very good, service on the ball and the restaurant itself very comfortable. Good place for friends to meet, a business meeting or for a comfortable meal. Less of a "scene" than Marea, though that may change.
We did not see the chef, perhaps he is opening yet another spot.
240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019
218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012
400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018