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Report: Aquavit, Rennaissance Diner, Esca/Rest Week vs Reg Dining and Question about Wine Service


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Report: Aquavit, Rennaissance Diner, Esca/Rest Week vs Reg Dining and Question about Wine Service

shellymck | Jul 1, 2002 01:43 PM

We just returned from a lovely weekend in New York.

We enjoyed a wornderful lunch at Aquavit. I ordered off the Restaurant Week menu (gazpacho, crunchy salmon rolls and Artic Circle for dessert—a goat cheese parfait with blueberry sauce) and my BF ordered a a la carte (goat cheese salad, duck, apple flavored dessert). The food was delicious—the flavors were so pure—we both had the sense that Samuelsson hs created a truly distinct cooking style. In addition, I had no sense that my dishes were in any way reduced in quality or quantity because of Rest Week. In fact, my dessert came straight from the regular menu. Also, the breads—at least five kinds to choose from--were delicious as well. Service was friendly and efficient.

Thanks to the poster who inquired about midtown breakfasts and those who responded. We had brunch at the Renaissance Diner on Saturday and really enjoyed it. My BF’s eggs were cooked perfectly and my egg salad club was great. The fries were piping hot and crispy. To my mind, this is the kind of place that people think of as a typical NYC diner, but one you would never find unless someone turned you on to it.
Thanks Chowhounds.

Our Saturday evening meal at Esca was, on the whole, a disappointment. We found the cooking to be inconsistent—some dishes were excellent, such as my summer bean salad, but others were tasteless, such as my BF’s octopus appetizer that the waiter had recommended. The pasta my BF ordered was no more special that what our neighborhood Italian place makes and for half the price. The fritto misto was tasty though and we appreciated the complimentary amuses-bouches. The biggest issue we had with the place though was with the service. A couple things happened:

First they tried to seat us at a table that backed to the bar though the place was half empty though they did accommodate us when we asked to be moved. Then, after ordering a bottle of white wine from the waiter two drippy, wet wine glasses were placed on our table. I assumed that the liquid was water and that the glasses had not been properly dried. As I was dumping out the second one a person I took to be the sommelier informed me that I was dumping out our wine. I was surprised to learn this given that our bottle was never presented to us. He had me taste the wine but I had to ask to see the label as he kept the label side to his arm the entire time. He filled the two glasses and left. According to our waiter, Esca has a policy of “priming” its wine glasses in order to eliminate trace elements of detergent residue. He also apologized for not presenting the bottle. This policy certainly makes sense but I have never seen this done anywhere in the United States or in Europe where I lived for several years. I am certainly willing to be educated about different wine practices, and in my experience, most wine stewards are very happy to share their knowledge, but not in this case. What do people make of this? Have you ever seen this before? How do you show displeasure with the sommelier and not the waiter when you tip? Then after a fairly mediocre meal we were given a complimentary dessert along with our desserts (this was not to apologize-all the tables were getting them). When the check came the free dessert was listed on the bill as “Baba-Complimentary” but when you did the math the price of the free dessert had in fact been included in the total. The waiter saw us puzzling over the check and brought a new one before we even explained the problem. I wonder if this really was just an accident. Needless to say I would not eat at Esca again.

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