Saturday night. New York City. The air is hot. The streets are crowded. The restaurants are filling up with people just starting their nights. And there I am. Walking into Colicchio and Sons, ready to take on the chef's tasting menu with the accompanying wine pairing. Alone.
I'd never gone all-out by at a restaurant on my own, but I figured "hell, I'm in NYC, and if none of my friends are as determined to spend way too much money on an 8 course meal, goddamnit I'm still going." And, it ended up being one of my favorite meals, because I could take in every aspect of my dining experience without thinking about anyone else, or filling up that time with conversation.
The first thing that struck me was the decor. Breathtaking. Swanky. Glamorous. Upscale. Sexy. Chic. Pick an adjective, any adjective. It completely embodied everything I think of when I think New York City sophistication: the wine collection stunningly displayed, vast dining areas, dark wood and accents, and a huge floral arrangement. The attention to detail was impeccable: the line motif was carried out through the rugs, the glass walls, the hanging lights, even the candle holder on the tables. If you want to make a girl feel like she's in the Big City, this is the place to go.
And then in a blink of an eye, my tasting menu commenced. I was surprised, and a little let down by the fact that there was no amuse bouche. The menu went straight into the Langoustine with honshimeji and ginger - the best dish of the night. The creamy, Japanese-inspired broth created a deeper, richer flavor than I'm used to seeing in first course - a happy surprise.
I had barely put down my fork when the next dish arrived: scallops with a foie gras terrine, honey turnips, and puntarelle - the worst dish of the night. Although fruit pairs well with foie gras, the honey-roasted turnip and honey pollen overpowered it.
Suddenly BOOM! The next course arrived, without the wine being poured, or even my silverware on the table. It was like the staff was in a race to see how quickly I could finish my meal and get out of there. Was it because I was alone? I thought it might be, so I smiled at my waiter and said, "Hey, just because I'm alone, doesn't mean I need to rush through this meal. I'm here, and it's okay to take the time to do things right, like give me a fork to eat with or some wine to drink with my dish." He took it well, and while my server Joseph was exceptional and the timing improved, my service, and the service I saw at other tables, was all over the place the entire night (not because of my waiter, who was wonderful). Shocking for such an esteemed restaurant.
The rest of the meal is too long to describe, so I'll just call out the highlights. Why didn't anyone tell me about sea beans?! Tiny, tiny green-bean-like veggies served with poached Turbot, and were packed with so much flavor; it was possibly the biggest discovery of the week! Hey San Francisco! Get with the program and start adding sea beans to the menu. If I don't see them within 3 months, I'm writing an angry letter.
The other highlight: dessert. So thoughtful, with 2 courses that progressed from dull sweetness, to intense richness. The Greek yogurt parfait with rose water gelee, pistachio, and rhubarb was particularly good: filled with the freshness of spring, it was the ultimate transition dish, cleansing the palate for the indulgence to come.
My overall impression was that this was a perfect example of NYC fine-dining, and a good example of how San Francisco cuisine is different. While the menu featured seasonal ingredients, my overall impression was that the dishes were mainly driven by technique; the ingredients were there, but the dishes were not meant to emphasize or enhance individual flavors through simplicity or subtlety. The portions were large, the sauces were rich, the ingredients were luxurious, and the technique behind the plate shined brighter than the quality of of the food itself. And I mean that in a good way - that kitchen knows how to make a mean vadouvan, something that's frankly difficult to find in the Bay Area.
I certainly left feeling a little bit like a character from Sex and the City, but less needy and way more awesome. I left feeling like the definition of "metropolitan chic," so Colicchio and Sons must be doing something right.
Colicchio and Sons
85 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011-4725