A friend and I had a disappointing meal at Peasant last night. I had heard great things about it and really wanted to like it, but alas it was not to be.
When we arrived, we found the space cozy and warm (perfect for last night's chill in the air), not to mention it smelled amazing. The menu is all in Italian and lacks any descriptions - years of stuffing my face until I explode has made me at least conversant in the cuisines of many cultures, so I was able to muddle through, but still didn't know what some of the dishes were and certainly didn't know how they were prpeared or what they came with since, as I said, there were no descriptions (in any language). This is fine with me if the menu is explained - in fact going through a menu item by item with a knowledgeable server can really enhance a dining experience, right?
Fortunately the waitress soon arrived and asked if we would like her to go through the menu - I got the feeling such is the custom there. If it is then you'd think they'd put some effort into it - she proceeded to read through at 90 miles an hour and then instantly take off. I missed literally half the menu. I got the feeling that she had too many tables and was either too busy or simply did not want to take the time to go through the menu in anything beyond a half-assed way.
We made some preliminary decisions and asked the waitress to go back through a few items. We literally had to ask her to slow down and/or elaborate about five times. We wound up ordering an appetizer (bocconcini wrapped in prosciutto and baked), pasta (langoustine risotto), and main course (quail stuffed with figs and chestnuts, served over polenta).
The mozarella arrived. I got out my magnifiying glance to admire the four TINY balls (what do you expect for $12?). They were tasty but not amazing, and like I said the portion was really meagre. I have definitely
had tastier mozzarella.
The risotto arrived, nicely split onto two plates. The portion seemed OK in this case, especially as it was rich. However the texture was extremely loose and soupy, and the parmagiano had not been properly incorporated so there were unsavory chinks that caused a disruption in flavor, texture and even temperature. All in all another disappointing course.
Finally the quail: these arrived smelling AMAZING. However the first cut revealed the hot pink horror of horribly undercooked quail. What a drag. We knew we would need to send them back (not in the mood for salminella), so naturally the speedtalking waitress was nowhere to be seen for the next ten minutes. Sigh. During this time we tried the polenta and it became clear why Speed Talker had vamoosed - she must have realized that she failed to do what a good sevrer would do, which is let your customers know if they are ordering uncomplimentary dishes - or in this case dishes that taste exactly the same. Yes that's right - the polenta was cooked with a ton of parmagiano, which made it WAY too similar to the risotto we had just finished. Pretty well indistinguishable in fact. (please no pedantic replies about the differences between plenta and rice!)
SpeedTalker finally resuarfaced and was very kind about our flourescent pink quail. At this stage we were uninterested in sticking around for the second take, so we asked for the check and she did not charge us. Props for that. But generally when dining in a place that has the price point of Peasant, I expect so much more. Service is important, and I expect a server who knows the menu and is excuted enough about it to want to take the time to talk you through it, and recommend a good progression of dishes. There are so many great places in NY that I don't see the point in settling. I will not be going back.
Oh a note on wine: They have a really strong list of bottles but offer TWO whites by the glass and THREE reds by the glass. Come on - with turnover like they have they can surely offer a little something more than that paltry selection.