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Manhattan

Hearth -- Disappointing

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Hearth -- Disappointing

cabrales | Mar 6, 2004 02:07 PM

I had an average meal at Hearth, representing my first visit there. My appetizer and the cheese selection were fairly good, but the other course and the wine advice were average-minus and very poor, respectively.

Our dining party of three was led into the cooking-stench-filled room containing the kitchen and the bar facing the kitchen. Fortunately, the dining room team soon ascertained that there were no tables for more than 2 people there set up and suggested the other room. Apparently, the receptionist had misheard the name utilized for our reservation. So, after a bit of mishap, our party was seated.

Amuse was parsnip soup in a shotglass. Even though I generally think soups in shotglasses are good ideas, here the soup was on the thick and grainy side and its uniformity in texture and taste lent it a heavy feel that was not appetizing.

Admittedly one of my dining companions and I took a long time to peruse the wine list. However we ultimately consulted a woman called Hailey Rose who seemed to be presenting herself as the person knowledgeable about wine. Our party was undecided about the bottle of white we would have, before our red. We asked her in particular about (1) Vouvray, Aigle Blanc, 1989, Prince Poniatowski ($39), and (2) an Au Bon Climat non-"regular" Chardonnay from the early 2000's (in the $70+ range). We signalled interest in both bottles. Very significantly in terms of my overall assessment of my experience at Hearth, Hailey seemed to describe the old Vouvray as rich, etc., as though she had sampled it. She generally thought it a good choice, and off we went. When the wine arrived, I almost (but did not) reject it. It was so sweet that it could have easily been a sweet dessert-type Vouvray (which it was not -- it had also been described in the non-sweet-wine section of the wine list). Now, I've had a few Vouvrays before and read a bit about them. The Aigle Blanc was an EXTREMELY uncharacteristic non-dessert Vouvray. That was not brought to our attention, and I doubt that Hailey had even ever tasted the wine, frankly. There also did not seem to be an apologetic or caring tone when I expressed how uncharacteristic the wine was. Also I note the significant heavy alcohol aftertaste in the wine that made it even less attractive initially.

Proceeding to the food, things started out appropriately but declined with the arrival of the main course.

-- Game Bird Terrine

This was fairly good, although not much gaminess was expressed in the included meats. Surprisingly, I was told by the dining room team member that the three game birds included are pigeon, quail and squab. First of all, I don't know if "game bird" is a generic term that is different from "game bird caught in the wild", for I doubt the quail and perhaps other birds were shot or otherwise entrapped/caught in the wild. But leaving that technicality aside, the terrine was appropriate. The meats (whatever they were) were relativley non-gamey, but still tasted pretty good (in the case of one meat, like chicken, but not in a negative way necessarily). There was almost a blandness to it (relative to what it is supposed to be), but that was not necessarily a negative in my eyes either. The technical aspects of the creation of the terrine were appropriate.

There were some pickled crosnes on top of the terrine that were appropriate, and an appropriate use of oil. Appropriate salad on the side.

-- Daily special appetizer of foie gras with endive and blood orange (taken as a main course, uncharacteristically by me) ($19)

The foie was significantly overcooked. Also I did not consider the bitterness of the piece of endive to be necessary when the blood orange segments included in the dish already conferred some slight bitterness or other "kick". The saucing was limp and contained some blood orange jus. It was generally unattractive. Overuse of small diced bits of chive; there could have been over 50 small pieces of them on the foie. I rarely order foie as a main course, but on this occasion there was nothing that was more appealing.

-- Cheese ($3/piece; we ordered two of each of three types of cheese to share among three people)

Cheese servings (per piece) are small, but not inappropriate given $3 price per piece. Fig composition, walnut and honey were accompaniments. Our dining party also shared a bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corbeaux 1998 D Bruno Clavelier.

Our cheeses included Banone (?), a French goat cheese, and Fourme d'Ambert.

Sadly, the best part of the meal was the cheese :) The meal was reasonably priced, at $100/person after tax and after tips.

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