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Charles Troob | Jun 7, 1999 08:45 PM

It's up the street from me in Chelsea. I never did
get to eat at Luma, which Siena has replaced (Scott
Bryan, the presiding genius of this restaurant chain
has moved his upscale cooking to Veritas). But a
colleague of mine left for a new job in early February
and it seemed like a good place to take her.

As it happened, I ate at two fancier restaurants in
the same week, Bolo and the restaurant on Spring
Street with the bakery next door which is the most
popular bistro in the City and whose name just flew
out of my head. Bolo was a pretentious overpriced
downer and while I loved the other place for its je ne
sais quoi, the meal at Siena was a cut above both, at
just over half the price. My friend had the ravioli
and I the salmon. This was seriously good food.

I went back with my partner on Valentine's Day and had
an antipasto (just good) and the pork in Barolo (not
on the current menu, for obvious reasons), which was
rich and scrumptious. The prices had gone up by 20%
in two weeks but it was still a good deal.

I went back again last week and had spaghetti with
bottarga (yes, Chowhound made me curious) and while I
wouldn't order it again as a main course (I don't like
eating that much pasta, and it was delicious but of
course all the same), I would be happy to share it as
a first course.

Siena is by no means a perfect restaurant. The
service is a bit scattered, and the last time I was
there I was with a friend I hadn't seen in years and
they were subtly rushing us though they didn't need
the table (we were there for over two hours, but only
because we ignored various hints). Each time I've
been there at least one of my courses was only OK to
good. But at its best you feel that there's someone
in the kitchen who really knows how to cook, as though
you've moved up one level from all those expensive
fancy restaurants in New York that put pricy
ingredients on your plate to impress you.

And even with the increase, it's very reasonably
priced, with first courses in the seven to ten dollar
range and second courses in the fourteen to eighteen
dollar range. At these prices you don't mind it if
the chef is experimenting. And they always give you a
tasty freebie to start--usually some sort of variation
on the Tuscan spread-on-bread.

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