This past Saturday night was my second visit to Maestro. The first was back in November.
As expected, most of the food was excellent. Highlights were the beef carpaccio (wrapped around tofu, with black truffles), crab and sea urchin, a pasta dish with skate (which was so much more tender than I would have imagined), a Maestro'd version of pasta carbonara (with a frothy egg sauce, truffles, and pancetta), the Kobe beef morsels, and the peppermint-chocolate souffle. There were six of us, with lots of sharing. The only mediocre dish was my entree, I thought. It was the "study of kosher lamb," which included a lamb chop, a slice of lamb tenderloin, and diamond of lamb belly. It was tasty enough, but the tenderloin was surpisingly not that tender, and all three parts were given the same sauce, remarkable only for the fact that it contained barley.
We noticed some changes to the menu and presentation of some items. The small block of intense basil gelatin that accompanied the oh-so-creamy buffalo mozzarella was a knockout. The warm chocolate thimbles distributed after dessert were the perfect last taste of the evening.
On our first visit to Maestro we were a party of six seated off to the side in our own alcove. It was very nice, and service was careful, attentive, responsive, informative, formal, and polite. Near perfect. This time, again a party of six, we were seated closer to the entrance with a view of the kitchen. Service was noticeably worse. Our initial drinks took forever. Emptied plates remained on the table for far too long. When we wanted to move to a new wine, it took a long time for the (excellent) sommelier to find us (or for our waiter to find the sommelier). Don't get me wrong--we weren't in a rush and we like to spend around 3 hours or more at meal like this with a group this size. But service was not as refined as we expected. Twice during the evening, in response to requests someone at our table made, I heard the waiter say, "Just a sec." Just a sec? Am I at Denny's?
Service was not horrible. It's just that at a restaurant like this, and based on my first visit, I expected much better. Perhaps the word is out and the place is more crowded now. Perhaps I ended up with a lousy waiter. Oh well.
Overall, it was a very good restaurant experience. The chef is extraordinarily creative and his creativity usually pays off. Everyone who can afford to should go there at least once.