Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Ai Fiori


LPShanet
 Share

Recommended Posts

I noticed that no one had started a thread of Ai Fiori yet, and was a bit surprised at the lack of discussion. Similarly, when I ate there last night, I was a bit surprised at the relative ease with which I got a reservation at prime time, and at the fact that there were a number of tables available. This was absolutely no reflection on the quality of the restaurant, which I found really impressive. I am mystified as to why it's not exploding like White's other ventures. All aspects (food, service, wine, atmosphere) were top notch. And while the a la carte prices are fairly high, there is a $79 four-course prix fixe that is an excellent value for a place of this caliber.

The room is elegant in a modern way, and is quite pleasant. It's certainly not as dramatic or memorable or special a space as those at Riverpark or Lincoln, but a nice and appropriate atmosphere nonetheless. In many ways, it's the most "adult" of White's outposts. But the reason to go certainly isn't the decor, so on to the meal we had.

My two friends and I opted for the four-course prix fixe rather than the tasting menu, as they aren't the gluttons that I am. Before the appetizers arrived, we were brought a shot of warm cauliflower soup as an amuse, which was excellent and rich. For first courses, we had crudo of fluke with sea urchin, lemon oil and sturgeon caviar; blue crab with avocado mousse, grapefruit, tarragon and crispy farinata; and a lobster veloute with sweetbreads, shaved chestnut and black truffles. All of them were first rate, but the crab and the lobster really stood out. The lobster was really rich, and the liquid so addictive that we all went through several pieces of bread sopping up the remains. The crab was a much lighter and fresher flavor profile, but also outstanding in a different way. And the crudo was super clean, with the uni adding just enough richness to keep things interesting. It should be noted that unlike many Italian restaurants, quite a few luxury ingredients were included in dishes without any supplemental charges to the prix fixe, such as the caviar in the crudo dish, and the truffles in the lobster. They did offer the usual Italian restaurant truffle up-sell, which we declined. (More on the whole truffle up-sell practice in another thread...)

The next course (primi) included risotto with escargots, parsley, parmesan and garlic chips; a rich veal-based tortellini and a creamy ravioli with yet more truffles. All were again fantastic, with the tortellini being the richest and most unctuous. All of them were as good as any pastas I've had in town. I don't recall all of the components in the tortellini and the ravioli, and those dishes aren't yet listed on the restaurant's website, so I apologize for the lack of detail.

Mains included a butter poached lobster with root vegetable fondant and chateau chalon sauce; a rack of lamb with lamb breast crepinette, swiss chard croquette and sariette; and a beef tenderloin dish whose accompaniments elude my memory. Once again, there were no duds, although the lobster and lamb definitely outshone the steak. The lobster was among the most skillfully cooked and sauced examples I can remember having in a restaurant, and the lamb was rich and very well balanced. In fact, the lamb struck me as a better executed version of the lamb dish I had at Lincoln, in that both involved the same basic technique. The racks of lamb had been covered in a crepinette that added both size and flavor to the meat. However, I found Ai Fiori's to be much better balanced in terms of the flavors, and both lighter and more moist.

Desserts were: A mandorle-cremeux, which turned out to be a sort of rich white chocolate like treat, with quince puree, caramel apple, rosemary oil and cassis sorbetto. A Dark Chocolate tartaletta with grapefruit, anise and hazelnut gelato. And an olive oil cake, with ricotta, pear confit, port cubes and coffee gelato. All were interesting and carried diverse flavors. Some worked better than others, but all were good. Since I don't have a huge sweet tooth, it seemed to me that these were the weakest link of the night, but still very good. I'm a fan of the pastry chef, Robert Truitt, who did stints at Room 4 Dessert and Corton prior to Ai Fiori. With his talent, and a little tweaking and paring down, I expect Ai Fiori's desserts to keep getting much better. They're definitely not just filler on the menu, which is nice since so many restaurants just seem to do the standard placeholder desserts. And the coffee gelato that came with the olive oil cake was fantastic.

Service was very solid, and friendly, but still formal. While not as over the top as that at Per Se, Jean Georges, etc, it was very professional, and will probably continue to improve. Wine choices were quite good, and prices for them were pretty much par for the course for NYC. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a few decent half bottles, instead of the typical junk that tends to fill that part of the list. The cocktail program was designed by Eben Freeman and looks to be a good addition to the restaurant, though it's only composed of five or six drinks at this point. The one I had, called aperitivo, was very pleasant and well balanced if a bit sweet for my taste. Again, I think this aspect of the restaurant will keep improving.

Overall, a really super restaurant, and an excellent addition to White's empire. It will be interesting to see if things fill up in the coming weeks/months.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been there a few times, I agree that it is definitely Michael White at his best. It does not hurt that he has some topnotch help at the restaurant, but the results are excellent, nonetheless. I really enjoyed everything I ate and drank there, and I cannot wait to return.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was actually there on the same night (Saturday night right?), and ordered many of the same dishes. I agree that Ai Fiori was the most mature and sophisticated of his restaurants, and was very impressed by the service and drinks program.

The quality of the food was on par with Alto and Marea, however I found the taste a bit heavy. We had 3 diners all ordering the prix-fixe, so I tasted 9 dishes and 3 desserts. The lobster was phenomenal.

My meals at Lincoln, Marea, and Osteria Morini all had elements that were lighter to balance things out. I'd like to see how the restaurant progresses. For the first month, it's damn good.

Shamelessly snapped away with my DSLR, will have some pictures online soon.

I work at day, I run my start-up at night. Somewhere in between, I eat and blog about dinner - EatBigApple New York Food Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was actually there on the same night (Saturday night right?), and ordered many of the same dishes. I agree that Ai Fiori was the most mature and sophisticated of his restaurants, and was very impressed by the service and drinks program.

The quality of the food was on par with Alto and Marea, however I found the taste a bit heavy. We had 3 diners all ordering the prix-fixe, so I tasted 9 dishes and 3 desserts. The lobster was phenomenal.

My meals at Lincoln, Marea, and Osteria Morini all had elements that were lighter to balance things out. I'd like to see how the restaurant progresses. For the first month, it's damn good.

Shamelessly snapped away with my DSLR, will have some pictures online soon.

Actually, I was there Friday...I just got the days muddled. I suppose I didn't make much note of heaviness, as I was in the mood for a rich meal, and it was cold out:) However, I thought the crudo and crab were both light and had enough vegetal or acidic elements to provide lightness and contrast quite a bit with some of the other heavier dishes. But it definitely wasn't spa food! Personally, I enjoyed the food much more than I did Lincoln, but it's very subjective territory. I found the flavors more arresting, and the seasoning a bit better balanced, though both meals were very good. Very interesting that you found Morini to have notably lighter elements, considering the menu there. Going to Marea in the next week or so, and will compare notes then.

Looking forward to your pics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess by heavy I meant to say "creamy". Most of the dishes were more on the creamy side. At Osteria Morini I had the Buffalo Moz, (super creamy) Pasta, then grilled meat. I'm sure that the fat content was similar, but the charred figs and grilled meats made it feel more balanced on the palate.

I work at day, I run my start-up at night. Somewhere in between, I eat and blog about dinner - EatBigApple New York Food Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I was there this past Sunday night and thought all of the food was fabulous. I had the tasting menu (mare e monte, tortelli, agnello and baba al rhum) and loved everything. My only small complaint would actually be with the service. Maybe I've just gotten too picky but expect more at this price point. I went through a course and a half with an empty wine glass and wasn't asked if I wanted another drink. I also though the timing between courses felt a bit rushed, but then we sat for almost 30 minutes post dessert until we could get the server's attention to ask for our check.

I'm not sure if any of the courses will stick in my mind for months as the fusilli at Marea does, but then Michael White has set the bar pretty high.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...