First, let me say that when I go to expensive restaurants, my expectations are high. I expect a lot; I want to be wowed!
We went to Valentinos Saturday night and I was expecting (hoping) for an outstanding dining experience. We had reservations for 4 people but one was delayed out of town so we were only three, which was not a problem for them (as it shouldnt be).
I will start out on a positive note, the service was outstanding. We were seated immediately upon entering (7:30pm) and once seated, greeted by our waiter immediately. One small drawback, to me at least, was that while we were promptly given a nice assortment of rolls, bread and bread sticks, which we finished before our drinks arrived, they were never replaced. Yes, I know I could have requested more, its not that I really wanted to eat more bread, but at their prices I felt they should have served more bread. The service was excellent for the entire evening.
As suggested by Russkar (May 17 post), I called on Wednesday and ordered the PRIMI tasting menus for 2 of us. I requested the Duck Crepe with candied orange as one of the courses, which I was told, was fine.
After ordering our Martinis and a Mojito, we were given menus. The wine was decanted nicely at the table. I mentioned that two of us had pre-ordered the Primi Menu. The waiter said they only serve the tasting menu for everyone at the table. I explained that when I confirmed the reservation for 4 and ordered the Primi Menu for 2 I was not told any such thing. After a little conversation, he acquiesced. I looked at the menu and lo and behold, there was the tasting menu! Russkar, a couple of things, 1) the primi menu is not a secret, and 2) it only had 7 items, not 8 10 as you mentioned. I guess things have changed. Also, I understood that the chef was not confined to any set menu on the tasting menu and allowed to do his thing. Not anymore, I guess.
I mentioned to the waiter that we requested the Duck Crepes w/ candied oranges, which he called the crispini. He started going over the tasting menu and said he would replace the spare rib with the crispini. I wanted to have the spare rib, and mentioned I would appreciate if he would replace the Octopus, since I would not eat that. It took several minutes going back and forth, he kept going back to replacing the spare rib, but finally he agreed to replace crispini (as he kept calling it) for the octopus.
The first of the 7 courses was the appetizer. A beautiful rectangular plate was served with three little square wells with a dollop of items in them. First was a scallop with potato salad, second was albacore tuna on a brioche and a piece of Cuttlefish ( I think thats what he called it).
The scallop was delicious, and the tuna on brioche good, but the Cuttlefish was bland and tasteless.
The second item, fist of the main courses was so memorable I cant for the life of me remember what it was. I called my friend who also had the tasting menu and she couldnt remember either. Must not have been that great, I guess.
Next was the spare rib. It was a small single rib, about 1 by 1 ½ inches. The bottom was of course the bone, and a thin layer of meat on top. Now this was outstanding! It was absolutely tender and delicious. Only it was so small it was gone in two bites!
The third course was supposed to be the duck crepe (Crispini as they called it). I dont know what it was, but I was sure it was not duck or a crepe. It was an empanda sized pasta (similar in taste and texture go gnocchi) with a filling that may have been veal, but did not taste like duck, plus there was no orange in it. While eating it the waiter came by and I questioned that this was the duck crepe, but he said yes, it was the crispini. Could sure fool me, wasnt what I was thinking or expecting.
Next was pasta, short tubes, in red sauce. The sauce was a very ordinary tomato sauce, a little less sweet than Chef Boyardee. It had some kind of meat in it. It was a good size portion and tasted okay but very ordinary.
The last course was the Angus Filet. I was shocked at the size of the filet! We were getting full at this point and it was actually difficult to finish the steak. It was cooked rare and actually very good. It didnt have the normal beefy taste, very different, but I enjoyed it.
My wife had the Delmonico steak ($34) and I had a piece of it. We both liked it and thought it was very good and that the sauce was excellent. She also ordered the Lobster salad ($17) which she said was not good at all; she was very disappointed. (She didnt notice the price and was even more upset later when I told her what it cost!!).
We were served a desert some kind of melon soup. It wasnt sweet and I thought just okay, not memorable at all.
The Primi menu was $85 pp. Not as fantastic as I expected and definitely not worth the money. I would gladly pay a good price for a dinner of the spare ribs though!!
Lastly, I need to discuss the wine. I brought a bottle (1982 Ch. Canon). I asked for the wine list, which I know is considered to be one of the best in the country. It was fantastic, with prices to match. I didnt count the pages but it must have had over 100 pages of great selections from around the world. (I should have one brought my 82 Moutons they had for $1,200! I should sell some to them so I can afford to eat there!).
However, I will say our meal was marred when I got the bill and saw the corkage fee: $35.00!! That is simply outrageous! I feel $20 is expensive but tolerable. I did pay $25 once and felt ripped off, but $35?!?! Totally unnecessary and will insure my never returning (or recommending) Valentinos. Call me bull headed, but this isnt New York and remembering the discussions on this board of corkage charges I dont remember seeing anyplace at $35.00.
The bill was $343 for 3 of us, $400.00 with tip, which was slightly under 20%, my way of responding to make up for the too high corkage fee. Definitely pricey for what we had. We didnt leave hungry, but I certainly wasnt wowed.