English is Italian, Aug. 11, 2005
I haven't been to 622 Third Avenue since the occupant was Tuscan Steak but I can safely say that this meal was slightly more memorable than the last time simply because of the concept behind it.
For those unitiated, the deal is this. You get all of the appetizers they have for the day, in this case 5 offerings. They are served "family style", or rather on individual dishes but enough servings for the number of people in your party.
My "great" father (he asked me to note in my review that he is great, which is a step below his usual request of "great and wonderful") and I started with their Pinot Grigio by the glass, which was fine but pretty lackluster.
Today's appetizers included:
* Rice ball with a bechemel sauce
This was very good. Maybe my favorite of the apps.
* Bruschettas: Fava bean with Parmesan; Eggplant caponita; white bean paste.
You get one of each/per person. The eggplant was dull and boring. The fava bean with parmesan was pretty good but chintzy and the white bean paste was salty but quite good.
* Grilled "baby" asparagusThis also had walnuts, egg and I think Pecorino on it. I thought the asparagus were cooked very well but the egg/walnut combo was a bit dry, as you can imagine. The dish was passable but nothing extraordinary.
* Seasonal grilled vegetable dome???
I have no idea what this was really but it was basically like a caponita that you get at I Trulli or Otto, shaped like (a tall version of) carpacio but consisting of squash, zucchini, tomato, eggplant and other vegetables. This was okay.
* And for some reason, I simply can't remember what the last one was..but I don't recall it being a salumi as I was led to believe it would be (see Frank Bruni review).
Our entrees were Clams and Tagliatelle (dad) and Roast Chicken with walnut pesto and beet salad (me).
Dad said the clams and pasta were good and later noted that he was happy with his decision for picking the restaurant.
The Chicken was very moist and had a strangely crispy skin but lacked the true golden color you'd associate with the texture, the walnut pesto only showing its true colors (flavor) toward the end and the (gold and red) beet salad was very good and surprsingly (maybe refreshingly) sans goat cheese as one is accustomed to seeing lately.
Overall the meal was pretty good and of good value. Would I return there? Not unless I was invited or in the area. Would I recommend it to someone? Sure, why not. That's a pretty dead area and this is a decent offering, especially with price in mind.
Bruni was correct in mentioning the oddball music playing in the backround wasn't a match with the rest of the place and that the experience was simply satisfactory (nothing exceptional) but we differ with service. Our waiter, though a bit less polished than he could be, was polite, relatively helpful with menu questions and paced us appropriately through our meal. The rest of the staff also seemed pretty nice and unobtrusive but hardly Danny Meyerish.
Total for two, before tip and including tax and three glasses of wine came to $92.