I have just reviewed some of the recent posts about Dovetail - hoping to find some insight to explain how a dinner we had so eagerly anticipated turned out to be one of my worst dining experiences ever in New York City. Based on all of the reviews - not to mention Bruni's 3 stars I was actually going to save our first visit for a special occassion in May- thank heavens we decided to preview as I will not be going back. To start, I may have missed this in the my scan of previous posts but I don't see any comments about how they see it fit to seat diners in a basement!!! Before you go be sure to say you don't want to be seated in a basement that with its padded walls feels like a recording studio! The decor of the entire restaurant is very odd, I had noticed what I thought was a private dining room when I went downstairs to use the ladies room as soon as we arrived- it never dawned on me that they would acutally sit diners down there who weren't part of a private, large party!
We arrived a few minutes early for our 8:30 reservation, there are only 4 seats at a tiny bar and two small bar tables so there was literally no where to go, and no one seemed to acknowledge this- we finally got seats at the bar and after waiting over 20 minutes for our table were led to the dungeon! When I read that the restaurant was in a townhouse I expected something a bit more cozy- as another Chowhound mentioned- the restaurant feels like a rec room- well the basement feels like the storage room of the rec room. As we were being led down I expressed my dismay to the host that we were not informed that there was a downstairs dining room, which was compounded by the fact that we had been waiting over 20 minutes for what seemed to be an after-thought of a room. I have since checked the website and it appears this basement is indeed the "sherry cellar" and it is stated that it is used for private dining, apparently the crowds have forced them to use it as an extension of their main dining room, how they can get away with not informing diners of this prior to seating them in what is clearly a secondary space is beyond me.The host sat us and then returned to apologize and explain that it would be 5-10 minutes and he would try to sit us upstairs- I made it clear that we were on the verge of leaving- he was very upset and asked us to please allow him to "make it right," we had a few awkward minutes of debate and were about ready to leave when the host returned and said he had our table. We were sat in the back corner of the restauant in a banquette which was fine, however it was extremely loud and warm. The restaurant was very crowded and hectic- we waited a solid 3-4 minutes before our waiter came over to greet us- then we waited another several minutes for water. By the time our food finally came the wind had definitely left our sails- the amuse bouche- which seems to be the same they have been serving for weeks- based on previous posts - vodka gelee, capers and caviar- was terribly salty and unbalanced, they ran out of the brussels sprouts so I had a white asparagus salad with salmon. The asparagus was a limp, flavorless attempt and what I can only think of a substitution as it is not on the website menu. My boyfriend got the gnocchi with short ribs which has been raved about and it had the same flavor of boiled potatoes that have been thrown in with a pot rost. He got up in between courses to use the men's room and I was shocked when they went ahead and served our entrees while he was away from the table. A restaurant of this caliber should train its staff to recognize this very basic rule of service- especially when there are only two of us at the table. The server did come back with silver cloches to cover our entrees- unfortunately when my boyfriend returned to the table no one was there to take the cloches- and based on the small table there was no where to put them! The couple next to us had finished eating so had a clear table and noticing our predicament took the covers and put them on their table- how emabarssing for the restaurant! He did enjoy the ribeye - ordered ala carte off the tasting menu - this was perhaps the highlight of our otherwise dismal expereience. I had the duck which was also prepared nicely and had good flavor, though it was served with apples, not the celery root as described on the menu, and I still cannot determine some odd hash that accompanied it which was one of the most foul things I have ever been served. We had the whiskey chocolate parfait and the carrot cake for dessert- which I must say were lovely- clearly the pastry chef, Vera Tong, has control of this element of the menu. Unforutnatley, I would be hard pressed to find a reason to go back to Dovetail- for a restaruant that has been open this long they seem to be way off the mark. I have never been so disappointed. I would appreciate hearing recent feedback