We had an excellent dinner at GARDEN CAFE this week.
We had read the report in ZAGAT and it sounded exciting. We found a parking space on the block and walked in.
We had no idea what to expect when we walked into the tiny jewel box of a dining room. We all wondered, is this it?
Pretty room with only 10 tables. The hostess showed us to a lovely table set for four and we pored over the menu and the wine list. Everything sounded delicious.
Freshly baked bread and sweet butter sprinkled with lavender and sea salt started everything off well.
We all had the mixed greens and herb salad with stilton and roasted walnuts as a starter. One of the best salads I have tasted here in NY.
The main dishes we tried were Braised short ribs, served off the bone. Caramelized, rich and winy with noodles and spinach, a completely successful, delicious dish. Also the Roast wild bass with olive mashed potatoes was very fresh and nicely prepared. The Shrimp and scallops in curry sauce with a creamy jasmine rice was light and nicely perfumed.
The dessert selection was fairly limited. Two of us had the chocolate mousse ganache and two of us had the cheese plate. The cheese plate was interesting, with three nice cheeses. It was served rather bizarrely with sweet biscotti and a little saucer of red wine for dipping. No bread was served, and we had to ask for bread, and the waitress brought out two rolls.
I would give the dining experience a 27... just a niche above HENRY'S END and CONVIVIUM for food. I think the ZAGAT rating is a bit over the top, giving GARDEN CAFE the same rating as le BERNADIN which is a whole other category of dining and service.
It is wonderful to find a couple cooking just for the love of it in a pretty homelike setting. It reminds me of LA MERENDA in NICE when it was run by Jean and Christiane. 12 tables, he cooked, she served, No reservations, no credit card, no phone.
We will probably return to GARDEN CAFE, but we all felt that although the food was very good, there was nothing really special or exciting about it.
The bill was $235 for four before tax and tip and wine.Very reasonable for the quality of food.