Eating Italian food in a restaurant is a tricky proposition.
Its easy to screw up. Its easy to be disappointed. Some places make things too complicated, or stray too far from tradition. The pasta could be overcooked. Then there are many regional differences and types.
For one of the dinners we were having on a recent trip to NYC, I wanted Italian. I wanted fine dining Italian. I do not think I have done so much research and changed my mind so many times on where to eat as I did with this meal. I did not want to be disappointed.
I eventually chose Ai Fiori which is a 1 Michelin Star restaurant by Michael White. I had dined at Marea before and thought it was excellent. I should of just went back to Marea.
Lets start this review with a game. Can you tell what is wrong with this pic?
I’ll give you a hint. The place settings are for two guests facing each other. At this level and price point, these details matter. The plate on “top” is upside down. This is just sloppy. Some people might not care, but cooking and hospitality is about detail. If no one cares how the plate is set, maybe no one cares to record how long a piece of meat has been sitting in the cooler, maybe no one cares to cook the chicken to the proper temperature, maybe no one cares to clean the bathroom etc etc etc.
Other things wrong that night include no wine list presented, loud guests (not really the restaurants fault), sloppy servers, and on and on. How about the food itself? It was pretty good. The meal started with an amuse.
..and then some caviar which turned out to be from China. I wish they had mentioned that on the menu but it was pretty good.
For pasta course, I had spaghetti with crab and bottarga. It was good but the pasta could of been more al dente.
Lobster for main. The sauce had really good flavor and acidity. The tail was well cooked.
We decided to skip dessert and they brought some petit four.
Overall the food was good. However, it felt like someone forgot to train the staff here or some kind of management oversight failure was going on. I would not return. There are a ton of restaurants in NYC to try. 7/10