I'd been to Artisanal a couple of years back. Had a lovely meal, but remember the service being indifferent at best - as many people here have complained.
Last night, I was meeting up with a friend for dinner. We decided to stay within my work area - because it was easy for both of us to get home from. After tossing around ideas, we decided to give Artisanal another try. We figured, we're native NY'ers, who cares about the service if the food is good?
Well, I'm happy to report that for us at least, last night was near perfect. I arrived and gave my name to the host, who informed me my girl friend was at the bar waiting for me. We were promptly shown to our table, one of the tables at the back wall, facing into the room (for me anyway). Our waiter arrived in a flash, menus in hand including the cheese menu! I was shocked - as many people have been complaining that they don't give this until the end of dinner.
He asked us if we needed any help with the menu or the wine list? I needed help reading it - even with my glasses, I was having trouble because the type is quite small on it. I noticed there was a savignon blanc from New Zealand (a Marlborough) and inquired if there were any others from New Zealand? He said it was the only one, and I ordered that. It was by Cooper Creek and was really lovely - lots of melon and apple notes. My friend was still on her glass of rose (don't know what it was) but ordered the same for her dinner.
We started off with the gourgeres (sp?) while we looked over the menu. Only a small basket this time (last time we gorged ourselves on them). They were as good as we remembered. A basket of bread was served, very good bread at that.
Being restaurant week (summer it seems) they had a listing for that special menu. My friend ordered that prix fixe, the soup of the day was Ceasar soup. Sounded interesting in theory but she passed and asked if they could substitute onion soup instead. They said sure, but it will cost $3 more. She could care less so onion it was. She ordered the hangar steak w/frites. I ordered a la carte. Onion soup too, and a corn and fava bean risotto.
We chatted and waited for our dinner. Several wait staff came by to make sure we were ok, did we need anything? None were too intrusive and all were there when we needed someone. Our soup arrived and even visually they were something to behold! Perfectly browned cheese, just the way I like it. Both of us nearly swooned with happiness as we took the first taste and deemed it "onion soup the way it should be". The cheese on top was nice and crisp, not too many onions floating around, good chunk of bread and the broth was rich and savory. Really outstanding.
Soon the entree appeared. My risotto was very nice and full of the flavors of the vegetables and the parmesean cheese on top (not grated, it was probably done with a julienne peeler, so they were nice sizes). The creaminess of the rice contrasted nicely with the snap of the beans, corn and the pea shoots which decorated the top. My friend's hangar steak was delicious, quite tender and juicy. Of course, the frites were perfect.
Her meal came with desert. She opted for the cheese course, which unfortunately we don't know the names of the 3 because by that time, it had gotten very busy and loud in there and we couldn't quite hear the resitation. However, I know 1 was goat with an ash covering; another was a sheep's milk, very aged with rich flavor, kind of nutty, and almost cheddar-like. The last one was a very piquent blue - but I don't know what kind of milk it was made from. She liked the sheep best, I liked the goat but really, loved them all. Just wish they would give you some fruits/honey/nuts to enjoy with them, not just a bread basket. We mostly chose to just use a fork, sans bread. I ordered their apple tarte tatin, which we also split, which was wonderful - and complimented the cheeses nicely. So, we got our fruit in that way.
We didn't go overboard wine wise. She had 2 glasses w/dinner, me only one. The check came out to just over $105 I think, plus tip of 20%. I think it was $130 that we split. Pricey - yes. But delicious and money well spent. I think we'll be going back more frequently now that they seem to have ironed out the bad service problem. Or maybe not? At least for us, it was a good night!