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San Domenico


southern girl
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During last week's visit to NYC, I had dinner at San Domenico...TWICE. The first visit was as hostess to a group of 5. Unfortunately...Delta was not "ready when I was"...big time engine problems :shock: ! I called San Domenico from the Cinncinati airport and asked that they take care of my guests until I arrived. I swept in about an hour late with luggage in tow, to find my guests being thoroughly charmed by the San Domenico staff. Big smiles all around. As I sat down, one of my guests (a restaurant person) couldn't wait to tell me that when he mentioned to the captain he knew they would want to turn the table...the captain couldn't have been more gracious...and made it clear to him there would be no rushing involved...San Domenico was our home for the evening.

The service was perhaps the best I have had in NYC. Not once during the evening did we want for a single thing. The water and wine glasses were always filled to the appropriate level, never a missing piece of flatware, food delivered in a timely manner, never a single plate taken away before the whole table had finished a course (a big deal to me as I am always the last one finished!)...all accomplished in a totally inobtrusive way.

Since Cabrales and Wilfrid have described the room in earlier posts I will skip those details.

My guests had the sommelier choose a chianti to enjoy (and cocktails) until I arrived. Although I saw the bottle I did not whip out my pen and write down the name. Very nice though. Lovely thinly sliced prosciutto on baguette slices arrived as a taste of things to come. I chose Sweetbreads pan roasted with garlic scented olive oil. Two perfectly crisp, browned rounds of sweetbread atop a veal jus sauce with a hint of garlic oil and topped with baby arugula. The sweetbreads had that lovely properly cooked springy texture. Excellent.

For the pasta course I shared Risotto Mantecato al Parmigiano with shaved white truffle. Al dente risotto with proper hints of white wine and parmesan. The white truffle was shaved tableside in generous amounts.

For my entree, I chose the special of the evening...loin of venison with jus, baby turnips, carrots and brussel sprouts. Two thick, huge medallions of rare venison placed atop the jus surrounded by the properly crunchy vegetables. The venison itself was so tender I could almost cut it with my fork. Again, excellent.

We shared tastes of Zabaglione with amaretto cookies and peach sauce (very nice, but I could have done without the sauce); Warm Chocolate and hazelnut torte with ameretto ice cream in a mixed berry sauce...dense and potently chocolaty; Open cannolo with sheep ricotta and candied fruit...incredible pastry filled with light as air whipped ricotta; and as gifts from the kitchen...assorted ice creams and sorbets; a huge plate of housemade cookies; copious amounts of fresh fruit; still piping hot fresh roasted chestnuts and an assortment of chocolate truffles.

We also had three bottles of a 1997 Brunello di Montelicino (will have to search for my note for that) and a Dow's 1977 Port.

Part 2 to follow...which was even better than this meal!

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SG, do you recall which producer it was, of the bottles of '97 Brunello you drank? And what was the charge for them? I wonder why they're choosing to open these now instead of holding them the appropriate length of time until they're ready. Seems to me if they bought these '97 Brunellos, if they hold them they will get a lot more money out of the bottles in some years...

Edited by La Niña (log)
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Good to hear someone else sing praises of my old favorite. I never warmed to the open cannola, I think because of the candied fruit. But I'm glad you found the meat cooking to be good, and I envy you the hot chestnuts, which I've never seen there.

Looking forward to part two.

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SG, do you recall which producer it was, of the bottles of '97 Brunello you drank?  And what was the charge for them?  I wonder why they're choosing to open these now instead of holding them the appropriate length of time until they're ready.  Seems to me if they bought these '97 Brunellos, if they hold them they will get a lot more money out of the bottles in some years...

great question.

I'll be interested to hear SG's response in terms of the vendor/price, but there are many who believe the vintage is overhyped, the wines overextracted and better young- I'd love to hear the restaurant's reasoning on both issues

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Wilfrid...I would not have chosen the canolo myself...as I too am not a fan of the dried fruit either...but with the open preparation it was easy to avoid and just enough the ricotta and the pastry :wink: . And I want to thank you again for your "local knowledge".

Nina and Charles...It was a La Fornace Brunello...entirely approachable after a bit of time in the glass. The restaurant price was $145...so, I would imagine it to be $50-60 retail. As an aside, they had 8 total offerings in the Brunello category...ranging I believe, from $75 to $700. The sommelier suggested the wine...as we needed something for the veal, venison and mushroom dishes chosen by various diners...and also a wine that wouldn't overpower the white truffle risotto. I admit I was dubious about that particular match...but, it worked nicely. This particular wine softened considerably from opening to the end of the meal. It was not a "huge" brunello...perhaps one of the '97s to be consumed now....unlike another I had recently...a Tenuta Caparzo...which I bought a few to put away as it had serious structure and tannins.

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Since I had seen the white truffle dishes available during my first meal this trip (and had such a good experience) I decided to return to San Domencio Sunday night. The weather was absolutely horrendous, cold, windy, wet...and not a cab in sight. Eventually the cab god smiled on me (after about 6 blocks of walking)...I arrived at SD a bit worse for wear and chilled to the bone. I was whisked to a cozy corner banquette with a great view of the room. I was barely settled in my seat before my captain placed a glass of champagne in front of me to welcome me back and warm me up. Next came the beautifully salty, thinly sliced proscuitto on baguette slices. I was told to relax...no need to rush to the menu...For once in my life I followed directions well :rolleyes: .

I ordered another bottle of the La Fornace Brunello di Montalicino,1997...since it had been a good foil for the food during my last meal (and the sommelier had the evening off...so rather than experiment in an area I am still a novice at...I took the tried and true).

For my first course: A repetition from my first dinner...Sweetbreads Pan-Roasted with Garlic-scented oil...the sweetbreads were again perfectly crisp and still resillient, the sauce lustrous and well balanced. The only negative was some of the micro greens topping the dish were past their prime...just a few...but, they should have been culled from the bunch.

Second Course: The beginning of white truffles away!!!! :wub: Raviolini del Plin (Pearl sized Raviolini in Veal Jus) with white truffle...although there was a large amount of truffle shaved on the dish (tableside)...I decided to be verrrry bad :cool: ...and go for double the truffle! The pasta itself was a bit deceptive...I wish I had Mikimoto "pearls" this large...they were pasta packets about the size of a quarter...the filling itself was ground veal, parmesan, a touch parsley and nutmeg. They were bathed ina fairly assertive veal Jus...With the truffles.... :wub: ...excellent dish!

Third Course: Not only was I on a white truffle kick, but also a veal kick! Roasted Veal Loin with Glazed Vegetables and Veal Reduction...and...yes...more truffles :laugh: ...A tender veal loin cooked medium rare-to slightly medium...accompanied by baby turnips, potatoes, carrots and brussel sprout leaves. A very nice preparation.

For dessert I asked for a recommendation from my captain. I was torn between the Pannacotta con Fragole e Salsa all'Aceto Balsamico (Eggless milk custard with strawberries and carmelized balsamic vinegar) and the Semifreddo al Torrone di Benevento con Cioccolata Calda ("Semifreddo" of nougat with warm Chocolate Sauce)....I told him to choose one for me...He returned to the table with both, as he didn't want me to miss out on either :smile: ! I thoroughly enjoyed them both. The pannacotta was served unmolded in the center of the plate and drizzled with the carmelized balsamic...a very tasty way to give umph to the custard. Very good. The Semifreddo was a bombe shaped dome, lightly chocolate flavored, studded with a good number of nougat pieces and served drizzled with a thick dark chocolate sauce. Also very good.

I forgot to order the roasted chestnuts I had the first visit...they brought them in for the white truffle dinner they were having the following evening. :sad: ...but, when my captain sat a lovely plate of house made biscotti, I forgot the chestnuts :wink: .

Again another very good meal with excellent service...everything before you know you want it or need it. Never having to ask for anything except for the check- which was delivered promptly after being requested...and returned in the same manner. And the restaurant was very busy for such an ugly Sunday night!

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Your pasta and meat courses reoplicated my white truffle dinner here a few weeks back. I am glad you got the raviolini - they were finished when Cabby tried to order them - as I thought they set off the truffles best.

I regard the pannacotta with the balsamic reduction as pretty much the house dessert - they disappointed me for a while by switching to a strawberry coulis, and I'm glad they've brought the rich, soursweet vinegar back.

I have to look out for those chestnuts.

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  • 1 month later...

It's on Central Park South, and I am afraid it is priced accordingly. Entrees will be in the upper thirties. This is one restaurant where a "tasting menu" turns out to be a good deal; it's usually four courses for around $65, considerably cheaper than the carte. The pricing is shameless; owner Tony May would clearly be happy with a restaurant full of free-spending millionaires, and he's at least halfway there.

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  • 7 months later...

I haven't seen any discussion of Grimes' review last week of San Domenico-- he praised the food, even came right out and said he would have given it three stars, but then complained about the condescending, pushy service and ended up giving the restaurant two stars.

I've never eaten there, but my mouth was watering for the first column and a half. Then, when Grimes dissed the service, I had little desire left to go there.

Was his review consistent with your experiences? Or does anyone from eGullet go there much? It seems popular with the tourists.

You restaurant professionals out there: how will the chef feel about this review? She comes out smelling like a rose, of course, but will she be furious that she doesn't have a three star review hanging outside? Do you think the management will take steps, like firing the head waiter or something, in response to the review? And will they post this review outside? The food is described in superlative terms... but then the rest of the review makes it hard to publicize.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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overall, i think the review was pretty accurate--wonderful food but the service/decor is a bit old-fashioned and not in line with newer Italian restaurants such as Babbo, Fiamma or L'Impero. not that it's worse--it's just different/a bit dated in those respects esp. for someone younger looking for a scene. the food is infinitely superior to all the other places (sorry Mario, you almost poisoned me the last time with the braised fennel salad grease trip). actually, i don't think grimes said anything about the dercor, it's just my impression. reviewing a restaurant on a Sunday night in July is not exactly a friendly gesture, you're bound to encounter "the B-team." i guess the idea is that every night should be the same but let's face it, the reality is it's not. most chefs are off on Sunday anyway.

if you think the food sounded good, you should go--there is a $50 three course prix fixe with a glass of wine that the times mentions but what it doesn't say is that you choose your 3 courses from the a la carte menu! as far as nyc prices go, it's a great deal

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

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You restaurant professionals out there: how will the chef feel about this review? She comes out smelling like a rose, of course, but will she be furious that she doesn't have a three star review hanging outside? Do you think the management will take steps, like firing the head waiter or something, in response to the review? And will they post this review outside? The food is described in superlative terms... but then the rest of the review makes it hard to publicize.

They won't be able to publicize the review, unless they take out an ad in a newspaper or magazine where they selectively site the review, much like movie ads do. The chef is secretly happy, because now it appears she is the only asset the restaurant has, so her position is secure (as long as the restaurant doesn't close). As far as the guy whose "role remains a mystery" -- gone.

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I haven't seen any discussion of Grimes' review last week of San Domenico-- he praised the food, even came right out and said he would have given it three stars, but then complained about the condescending, pushy service and ended up giving the restaurant two stars.

I've never eaten there, but my mouth was watering for the first column and a half.  Then, when Grimes dissed the service, I had little desire left to go there.

Was his review consistent with your experiences?  Or does anyone from eGullet go there much?  It seems popular with the tourists.

You restaurant professionals out there:  how will the chef feel about this review?  She comes out smelling like a rose, of course, but will she be furious that she doesn't have a three star review hanging outside?  Do you think the management will take steps, like firing the head waiter or something, in response to the review?  And will they post this review outside?  The food is described in superlative terms... but then the rest of the review makes it hard to publicize.

I've been to San Domenico numerous times over the past several years. The quality of the food during that time has varied quite widely, from very good (when I first tried the restaurant) to barely mediocre (a few years ago) to the remarkably fine cuisine of recent dinners that Grimes noted. I don't know when the current chef arrived, nor the history of SD's chefs over the years, but I would find it hard to believe that she was responsible for this wide range of experiences -- unless, just conceivably, the kitchen staff or some other major variable has wandered out of her control.

This is conceivable, as I said, since I've heard from a friend who's a long-time NYC Italian waitstaffer that the management of SD is notorious in the world of restaurant staff for pretty brutal and arbitrary handling of the employees. I can't recall for sure, but think my friend said that they won't use union employees. I do know that there's constant turnover in the dining room -- or, if not constant, pretty regular turnover: I may not visit the restaurant every week, but in all the times I've been there I don't think I've ever recognized a single captain or waiter or busboy from any previous visit.

How this factors in to Grimes' complaints about the service I'm not sure, and I don't doubt the accuracy of his impressions, but I'd bet that if he returns in a few months he'll find a different ambiance. I don't think the place has a policy that would render its staff condescending and pushy, but the pressure of working in circumstances like that might well favor independent-minded, aggressive, perhaps arrogant staff over employees who may be less personally ambitious but are secure and comfortable in their jobs.

How on earth have I strayed so far from the topic of food? Please forgive the psychobabble tangent. Anyway, right now at least -- and for the past few months -- the food at San Domenico is really wonderful. But go now, before it's too late (again)!

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As someone whose eaten there fairly often, I found Grimes' review somehwat puzzling. While Fada's cooking is excellent, I can't bring myself to rhapsodize over it, much less elevate it significantly above places like Felidia (where Fortunato Nicotra is IMHO a self-effacing, underrated chef), San Pietro, nor even I Trulli.

Perhaps the wait staff recognizes me-- I'm acquainted with Tony and Marisa his daughtet, her husband David, sommelier Piero and Roberto--, so maybe they know enough about me to distinguish me from an out-of-towner or one-time tourist; but I've never found the level of service to be less than competent and quite efficient-- certainly nowhere near as boorish as Grimes describes them.

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  • 3 years later...

Has anyone here been to this restaurant recently? The last post was almost 3½ years ago, right after its last NYT review. William Grimes awarded two stars in 2003, noting that the food on its own was worthy of three, but was let down by pushy and inconsistent service. Previously, Bryan Miller awarded three stars in 1988, and demoted it to two in 1991.

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Has anyone here been to this restaurant recently? The last post was almost 3½ years ago, right after its last NYT review. William Grimes awarded two stars in 2003, noting that the food on its own was worthy of three, but was let down by pushy and inconsistent service. Previously, Bryan Miller awarded three stars in 1988, and demoted it to two in 1991.

Went last year at this time and thought it was fine, but nothing memorable. Two stars is at the high end. Maybe a high one - service wasn't inconsistent but definitely somewhat snooty.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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