Restaurants & Bars


March review (long)


Restaurants & Bars 9

March review (long)

Caseophile | Nov 10, 2003 03:22 PM

I’ve made a few visits to March recently, after reading a very positive review on the Manhattan board some weeks ago (see link below). As it turns out, that review was followed by three or four negative reviews. But I decided to try it out anyway. Here's my impression:

The space is a nice take on the multi-level townhouse idea. I found that there was plenty of spacing between most tables. Though they haven’t created as elegant and lovely an effect as, say, Aureole has with their townhouse, March successfully achieves a slightly more rustic and classic ambience. Plenty of soft banquettes and other soft materials absorb just enough sound to create a pleasant din. The service was excellent, warm, friendly, attentive, and informed. At one visit on a weekend night, March remained tranquil and pleasant, with none of the drunken, screaming “big-night-out” clientele that sometimes come into town on weekends and turn good restaurants into frat parties.

Notes on the food follow. Although a few dishes were good, I thought most were mediocre, and a few were poor. The desserts were particularly problematic. Having said all that, I think the point at March may not be the food, but the wine. There are a large number of wines available by the glass, including some very interesting and excellent selections, and a number of sakes and sherries. If I were to go back to March, I’d focus my efforts on trying to enjoy the wines, and treat the food as accompaniment to the beverage selection. If you don’t drink wine at all, then, well, I’d recommend someplace else.

At the beginning of the meal, the captain offered to bring us the chef’s “signature amuse,” which is a “beggar’s purse” containing lobster and truffles. Only upon questioning did he divulge that each purse carries a $20 supplemental charge. I saw a few of these arrive at the neighboring table. They’re about the size of a pot sticker. I didn’t try one.

Asparagus vinaigrette with snap pea puree, bonito flakes, and spicy olive oil: As the last poster said, pretty good, but very simple and not so noteworthy. The bonito flakes were a little too salty.

Scallop ravioi with tomato and lobster cream: there was a lot more seasoning in this dish than is reflected in the title. I’m not sure what the spices were, but it gave the dish an Asian flavor that I liked a lot. Unfortunately, the dish doesn’t do as much with texture as it could. The sauce is a thin liquid, not creamy as one might expect. The scallop in the ravioli is firm and not at all creamy or buttery, kind of like biting into gnocchi. I found myself longing for the sublime textures of the shrimp ravioli at Le Bernardin. Nevertheless, this is a good dish. I’d order it again.

Shrimp and wild mushroom tempura with spicy cream fraiche: Poor, verging on disgusting. It’s not tempura like you’d find in a Japanese restaurant, but rather something you’d find in a roadside shack in New England: batter-fried, with no flavor except for that of the heavy butter sauce that came with it, and the disturbingly excessive quantities of salt that coated it.

Seared bluefin tuna with black cale, quinoa, and caramel soy sauce: This was my favorite dish. Pretty straightforward, I guess you could find something like it in any Japanese restaurant, but it worked for me. The sauce was delicious, and little sesame seeds gave it some heterogeneity and complexity that I liked a lot. I wish the chef offered more dishes that unabashedly featured strong Asian flavors like this, because I think this is when he's most successful.

Sauteed striped bass with black trumpet mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, and port wine reduction: It was far from the nicest piece of fish I’ve seen, but again, the flavors worked well together.

Rack of Colorado lamb with crown squash risotto and lamb jus ($5 supplement): Here I have to differ with the previous poster. I didn’t think this was that great. The lamb was tougher and drier than it should have been, and the jus wasn’t as tasty that I would have liked. The risotto, at least, was very good: they nailed the texture (which seems hard to do), and I liked the taste of the squash.

Braised veal and macaroni with zucchini, tomato, garlic, and basil: Much better than the lamb. The veal was tasty, slowly cooked, very tender, falling off onto the fork. But it lacked the juiciness that I like in braised veal. I’ve certainly had better, but it was a good dish.

Roast sliced prime short rib on spicy cucumber with yuzu kosho: I ordered this one, but instead of short rib, the waiter delivered a skirt steak, prepared in the same manner. For some reason, the captain neglected to tell me that they didn’t have the short rib that night, and a steak was being substituted. I’m not sure if they still charged the $5 supplement. The steak was virtually raw in the middle, yet somehow dry, tough, and chewy. There was a hint of an interesting yuzu flavor emanating from the small quantity of jus at the bottom of the plate, but it was barely detectable. You could do better just walking into Gristedes, buying a steak, and broiling it for a while. Pour A1 sauce on it, and you’ve got something ten times better than this.

Apple pectin with Chinese wine and strawberries (or something like that). This was served as a complimentary “palate cleanser” before the dessert arrived, but it certainly didn’t serve that purpose. It was a bit like oversweetened apple jello that hasn’t yet been chilled or set to the right texture. I ate all I could to avoid offending the staff, but that wasn't much.

Frozen coconut soufflé with anise, mango, and red fruit coulis: I had to re-read the menu to be sure this was actually the name of this item. It was a tasteless lump of white custard, topped with a dollop of mostly-tasteless red fruit mush very similar to the topping on a Sara Lee strawberry cheesecake, only not as sweet and not as good.

Cantaloupe soup: This soup portion of this was inedible, an unsweetened substance served at room temperature, with the texture of melted sorbet and the taste of the liquid penicillin that you had to drink as a kid for your strep throat. Sitting in the soup were two small cantaloupe balls, which were extremely underripe and not at all sweet, as well as a ball of melon sorbet which was really quite good. A big dish of the melon sorbet would have been quite a nice dessert.

Molten center Valrhona chocolate cake with Ibarra chocolate whipped cream: I agree with the last poster, this was weak. One of the worst molten Valrhona cakes I’ve tried.

Candied walnut tart with bourbon islands ice cream: This was the best dessert of the bunch. The tart was great. Tasted a little like baklava, only crunchy instead of flaky. Not much taste in the ice cream, though. I never would have known it was made of bourbon if they didn’t tell me.


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