19. January 2014 19:23
Rich parents have a tricky time raising proper children. Not because their wealth intrinsically corrupts, but because of the misguided forces of human correlation. Correlating offspring with themselves, wealthy parents tend to allow the feral beings to tumbleweed through early life because, very likely, they were denied the wilderness themselves. And so it is with hotel restaurants. The hotel is the rich parent and, its overwhelming failure to tighten up the reigns, leads to the certain failure of the child restaurant. I have railed against this scourge quite often. I prepared to do the same with Nico Osteria. But I can’t. Save for their healthy Rush-Street pricing, they are an excellent addition to the street of Dine and Drink.
The location that most recently gave birth to Nico Osteria has gone through so many identities that I joked, 4 years ago, during a month of Spanish-themes, that the staff might walk in to work with “tapas” and walk out with “sushi.” I also expressed doubt about the location’s possible continuance for even the wealthiest of parents (hi Rande Gerber) can grow tired of bailing out their misbehaving children. I regret my cavalier dismissal.
My only complaint about the restaurant is price. The anemic fish one gets for US$20 is inexcusable, Rush Street or not. “Crudo” means “raw” in Italian and I certainly felt beaten that way. I don’t know why the prices didn’t stop us from ordering 4 crudos. Perhaps they have the supply=demand function figured out quite well. And their wine is priced at a shocking 2x markup. Also excellent.
How about the service? Certainly I could find something there I didn’t like. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. What was, perhaps, a testament to overstaffing, my water glass never went below half-way and not a crumb dropped on the table went without removal. I glanced to the far corner of the bar and saw 11 staffers (I counted…come on, you know I did) standing there looking for empty glasses to fill or crumbs to collect. And I felt, for the first time, that someone other than a techie knows what one must do to buy redundancy. Rich parent that actually invest in their children. I think I love it. If I could afford it, I would come here again.
16. January 2014 06:58
The chief problem with BYO at large-course dinners is the inevitable (and rapid) descent into total table chaos. As the glasses piled upon glass, keeping track of which vessel contained which pairing was an impossible assignment. This, to say nothing about the different pace of the 4 drinkers. The redeeming quality, of course, is price. Drinking as we did, if the wine were paired up by the restaurant, we could never have escaped without a bill well beyond the painful 4-figures. Still, I was underwhelmed, underfed and out-of-patience.
Goosefoot is named after Chenopodium, a genus of herbaceous flowering plants. Genus! NOT family! Dammit! Why does the staff keep saying family? The “amaranth” family does, in fact, include the goosefoots but the incorrect reversal is no different than saying all rectangles are squares because all squares are rectangles.
You have had geese-feets before. They include some spinaches, Mexican Epazote, Swiss chard, Chioggia beets, and the super-popular quinoa which might be better called a goose-running-shoe based on how fast it sprinted onto every hipster menu ever. Chris and Nina Nugent, chef and proprietors, grow the plants themselves. I suppose a goosefoot fetish is better than the plain foot one.
Despite my opening remark, I cannot say that there was anything on the menu that was bad. Indeed, I was blown away by the savory delight of the second course (shrimp/preserved garlic…), served in an eggshell. The meats were fantastic but wholly insufficient. This 9-course meal borrowed many things from many places. Tru’s synchronized plates? Check. Alinea’s aromatic excess? Check. Contemporary, engaging (and engaged) 4-star service? Check…minus. Because the time between courses was unacceptably long. I know this is the kitchen’s note but it’s service’s echo. One interval stretched over 30 minutes and the average was 15. Our meal took nearly 5 hours – I kid you not. Mrs. Nugent explained that they do not turn tables (which is why getting reservations is so fun) and the seating is for the evening. I’d prefer that be a right and not an obligation. Folk should not have time to get hungry again between courses. Especially given their infinitesimal size. At least we had our wine. And goosefoots. And, yes, they add amazing value to the meal. So small, yet flavorful. They notably improved on already tasty fare.
The following is in order of the corkage. But in the melee that ensued, no glass was really paired with anything. ‘Twas all a giant free-for-all. I hope you can show more restraint.
- Veuve Clicquot Rose (Champagne)
- 2011 Belle Glos Dairyman (Pinot)
- 2004 Marcel Deiss (Alsace)
- 1986 Château Beychevelle (Bordeaux)
- 2003 Parusso Barolo Le Coste-Mosconi (Barolo)