I read the recent posts about the poor and haughty service at FDL with some trepidation, since I had reservations for my wife's birthday on a Saturday evening. We decided to go ahead and see for ourselves anyway, and we're glad we did.
When we came in the door, the hostess was on the telephone and looking a bit flustered. I started to get a bad feeling, but the Maitre D came along within 10-15 seconds and greeted us warmly while the hostess sorted out the problem she was dealing with on the phone. I had noted the problem of being seated in a side room, so when I called to confirm my reservation, I requested a table in the main room. We were shown to a very nice table in the center of the main room. So far no problem. There was a slight problem once we sat down. We are both very short, and the table we were at had a much larger base than any of the others in our sight. That base prevented us from pulling our chairs close enough to the table to eat comfortably. We were there early and the room was only about 20% full. We asked if we could move to another table, and pointed to one nearby. They agreed, and we moved and had a round of champagne delivered. By this time we realized that the table we picked was adjacent to a service area, and there was constant traffic and noise from the waitstaff. Our waitress noticed our unhappiness and volunteered to move us yet again, without our even asking. She checked with the maitre d and basically gave us our choice of any empty table for two in the restaurant, except for the one that had been decorated with rose petals by a young man out to impress his date. We ended up at a banquet table that was very comfortable and quiet. We were very happy.
The meal was overall very good. The menu is set up to order three, four, or five courses including dessert. Bonni opted for the three course, and I opted for three courses and no dessert. They had to do a little accounting manipulation to handle that, but came up with a four course minus the cost of a dessert. It ended up at $1 more than the three course.
For the first course we both picked from the appetizer section. Bonni had CRISPY VEAL SWEETBREAD with lemon flavored asparagus cream and accented with sea urchin roe. Sweetbreads and uni are two of her favorite things getting them together in one dish seemed like real treat. The asparagus were arranged in alternating green and white stripes and the dish was very appealing to look at. The sweetbreads were excellent, the uni was there, but very subtly. The asparagus was cooked perfectly, but neither of us is a fan of white asparagus. The green ones were fine.
I had the DUO OF HUDSON VALLEY FOIE GRAS. This dish consisted of a covered ramikin (Baeckhoffe)sealed with pie crust in which a melange of foie gras truffles, and fingerling potatoes had been baked. I found this dish interesting, but in general dissapointing. The other side of the plate had a little brioche bun with a seared duck burger and foie gras, sort of Keller's version of Peking Duck. This dish was a home run. I loved the blending of flavors and textures. I was thinking how great it would be to find a Wimpy type place that had these and get a dozen of them.
For my next course I had another appetizer and another duo. This one was RABBIT CHOPS AND SAUSAGE. I don't think that was the actual title on the menu, but that's what it was. On one side of the plate were two tiny rabbit chops that were actually quite meaty and tasty. The other side had slices of a rabbit sausage. I don't remember what the other ingredients were. The chops were very good. The sausage was fine, but nothing memorable. During this course Bonni was given an empty plate and utensils, so that I couls share some of my rabbit.
For the next course, we both ordered off the main course section. Bonni had VEAL CHOP with foamy lobster bisque and veal essence accompanied with Ris de veau fritters. It was her sweetbread night. Lobster bisque on a veal chop raised my eyebrows, but the flavor stayed in the background, and actually complemented the chop nicely. The fritters were fun and light and tasty, but if I didn't know they were ris de veau, I probably wouldn't have guessed it. I ordered the ROASTED SQUAB BREASTS stuffed with foie gras and truffles with a ravioli of squab leg confit and a sauternes ginger sauce. I really liked every part of this dish. The flavors melded beautifully. The ravioli was a little bit of a misnomer. It was more like a blini with the confit on top. Whatever you call it, it was delicious.
For dessert Bonni had a very competent chocolate souffle and a birthday plate of a strawberry mouse and cookies. Of course a little plate of chocolates and cookies followed all this, so I felt my strtegy of not ordering dessert worked fine.
We were comparing notes with the couple at the next table, who had eaten at Gary Danko the previous evening. We felt the food was better at GD, but the ambience was better at FDL. Foodwise Bonni and I would rate GD first FDL next and Fifth Floor behind both.