Posts tagged new york restaurants
Posts tagged new york restaurants
Restaurant week in New York City is an interesting time for dining out. I label this time interesting because for many, it affords the opportunity to try a restaurant that is otherwise too costly or difficult to get into, but the experience is often soured by large crowds, a limited menu, and in some cases, a very frustrated restaurant staff. Even in some of my “successful” outings of the past, I have often found myself wondering: “What’s that place like when its not restaurant week?”
For that reason, for this summer’s NYC restaurant week, I chose one place to attend. A roman-trattoria inspired, Danny Meyer owned, fine dining Italian restaurant nestled into the western corner of Gramercy Park (inside the Gramercy Park Hotel). Ironically, the day before our 8:30 pm reservation, I realized that Maialino was only participating in restaurant week for lunch. Enthusiastically, the next night, we went to dinner for the real deal…prices and all!!
Before you even walk in, the charm of this place is undeniable. If you are on foot, any way you approach the restaurant, you are sucked in by the beauty of the 19th century buildings that make up the park’s neighborhood. Beyond the heavy glass and steel door and down a half a set of stairs is a contemporary, yet homey, establishment.
Despite the great vibe, our service was surprisingly mediocre for a Danny Meyer spot- it took about 15 minutes after our reserved time to be seated, and from there the wait staff seemed more focused on the tables that did not have two twenty-somethings sitting at it. A mix-up with our drinks from bar to table was also a bit bothersome.
The food rundown goes a little something like this:
1. Some pretty incredible rosemary infused foaccacia and those delicious crunchy long italian breadsticks- on the house with a good olive oil.
2. Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with OO and Anchovies- Some high quality dairy and a nice prelude to the pasta.
3. Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Bucatini all’Amatriciana- The pastas were outta this world. Fresh tasting, perfect al dente texture, and aptly sauced. Both dishes introduced my first experience with guanciale, (AKA Roman Bacon). It is definitely intimidating when you read about it, but delicious in a well prepared dish of pasta
4. Suckling Pig for two with Fingerling Potatoes- the namesake dish for this restaurant (Maialino in Italian translates to piglet.) This was a special for the night, but was surprisingly pedestrian. A rather bland “crispy skin” topped a rather small pile of pork that was moist, but lacked seasoning. I was dying for some sort of flavor to pop out as we tore through this final dish, but I got nothing. The fingerlings were great, the “maialino” just did nothing for me.
After another glass of wine and some more breadsticks, the bill arrived. I thought to myself, “Wow! This is definitely not a restaurant week sponsored meal!”. Although we had a few drinks and an appetizer, I can definitely say I have spent this amount of money elsewhere and had a much better meal and experience.
Overall: This restaurant has an incredibly authentic italian vibe and is a great intimate setting for a special occasion. With only one experience, I can pretty confidently say that you will get a nice meal, but you will definitely pay for it. I am sure the service issue is not prevalent, as DM places just don’t operate that way, but you may find the waitstaff giving disproportionate attention to the high-roller types. I hear brunch is the best meal at this joint, so I plan to go back again!
Everyday, with a gym bag on my back, I schlep down Hudson St. to get to my office. The walk from Christopher to W. Houston is always my favorite stretch of the daily commute; between the excited little kids filing into St. Luke’s school, the constant set preparations for the filming of a new movie or the occasional celebrity sighting, there always seems to be something interesting going on.
Lately, my sights have been set on the ground floor transformation of a beautiful brownstone between Morton and Leroy streets into what is now The Goodwin: West Village Wine Bar and Café. The doors swung open on June 1st and foodie inclinations aside, I was compelled to patronize due to my witnessing its transformation twice a day, everyday, for the past six months. So this past Wednesday, I found the perfect opportunity to drop in for lunch.
The layout of the restaurant is great- there are a few tables in the front, a long bar with about 20 seats in the middle as the space narrows, and in the back is a main dining room (seats about 40) where floor to ceiling windows afford lots of natural light and a nice view of a garden. The décor has that predictable, omnipresent, “industrial vintage” feel. Thick wood beams with a hand-hewn look line the ceiling, a large carriage wheel sits on the wall by the bar, and plumbers-pipe light fixtures and accents are everywhere. You may as well be in the middle of a catalogue shoot for Restoration Hardware.
Their “preview” menu consisted of bar snacks, salads, soups, sandwiches, and small plates- all seemed to be American inspired with the requisite high prices characteristic of Gastropubs. The wine and beer list had some nice selections, but was fairly limited; one would expect this to grow should they intend to live up to the “Wine Bar” in their title.
After I was seated in the back room, I had to wait 10 minutes until a fumbling waiter came over and stuttered over the words: “What do you want?” Not the best first impression for a new place. Nonetheless, I ordered “The Rich Boy” which is Goodwin’s play on the traditional Po’ Boys of the bayou; tempura mussels, clams, oysters, and chorizo, with spicy pork gravy and pickled onions on a pretzel hero served with herb fries. At $17 I expected the best damn po’ boy north of the Mason Dixon, but I was let down. The tempura’d seafood should have been crisp and crunchy, but it didn’t even have a chance due to the amount of pork gravy it was swimming in. And the Pork Gravy- was this made from a can of whiz from Gino’s Cheese steaks? It certainly tasted that way- much too much cheese taste. The only thing that could have thrown a lifeline to the dish was the fries, but they also disappointed. Dry and over seasoned, they were begging for ketchup (which I asked for, then waited 10 minutes to receive).
Overall- my dish and the service were lackluster. Despite the fact that I only had one menu item, and despite being sympathetic to the fact that it takes a couple of months for a new restaurant to get the kinks out, I’m not optimistic about this place. Go there once the full menu comes out and they get their act together, I may do the same. For now, I’ll just be observing on my walk to work each day.
An interesting find here- the graphic designer elaborates on his inspiration for the logo, typeface, and seal at the restaurant. I wish some more of the rich history of Goodwin & Co. Farm was incorporated into the interior design and menu items.