THOR, Dec. 20, 2005
Rivington, (bet. Essex and Ludlow)
This was a fairly anticipated dinner. We hadn't seen our friends Sue Ann and Doug in quite some time and the hype over the restaurant was also intriguing.
I'll avoid paraphrasing a Flavor Flav lyric, but will say that there was definitely highs and lows.
The first high, unfortunately, wasn't a good one...as it has to do with the temperature in the bar area. I've never been in a warmer place. Never. It was so hot in the bar area that I can't imagine anyone wanting to stay for more than one drink...if that. The stools and the space afforded between them and the bar was remarkably uncomfortable.
Waiting for our friends, I ordered a Taxi Cab in honor of the city employees that have free reign to try and rip us off at every chance they get during this transit strike (more on that later). It had cachaca (brazilian rhum, not rum - made from cane sugar, not molasses), fresh orange juice and vanilla. Pretty tasty, but worth only trying once. I switched to an O'Leary Walker Cab/Merlot blend for dinner.
So with all of us ready to eat, we sit down in what is quite possibly the most uncomfortable dining situation I've ever been privy to in New York. We had the right corner to ourselves, that is if you don't include the loud, vibrating humming that was coming through the wall that our backs were against. I'm assuming it was the hotel's A/C unit. The seats themselves were okay, but the distance across the table was much to far. Even with only a few people in the room, the conversation to my wife across the table was challenging, once you add the noise from the A/C unit and the distance. Ugh.
For appetizers, both my wife and I ordered the gnocchi dish. This came with shitakes, peas, thick and heavy gnocchi (12 or so) that looked seared on one side. This was great, and without trying to stop you from reading further, was the best dish of the night.
Sue Ann had the lobster raviolis which were okay-to-good, but of a very small portion.
Doug had the Bibb Lettuce Salad with 1 hour poached egg. It came adorned with a circular, hard (baked) cheese webbing of sorts. This was Gutenbrunner's version of the Batali warm lamb's tongue vinaigrette...but with anchovies (or related fish) in replace of the tongue. It was very good.
For entrees, I had the venison with pistachio crust with brussels sprouts and red cabbage. The venison was okay, certainly not the best I've had. The pistachio crust was lousy and bland. Detracted from the venison. There might have been one brussels sprout deconstructed on the plate, but that was that. The cabbage was very nice. Overall...definitely pass on this dish. Not worth it.
Danna got the poached lobster which was too similar, but according to her, not nearly as good as the version at Wallse'. She was slightly disappointed but agreed that it was still good.
Sue Ann ordered the beef tenderloin which was probably the tastiest dish of the lot. Perfectly cooked and quite flavorful.
Doug ordered the sea bass, which was presented simply but nicely and had a very nice color to it. It tasted pretty good and Doug seemed to enjoy it.
When it came to dessert (10:30), we ordered our desserts (apple terrine, pumpkin cheesecake, etc.) only to have our (second) waitress return to let us know that they sent the pastry chef home for the night due to the Transit Strike.
I just didn't get it. I still don't. So the maitre d' comes over and apologizes and offers to buy us a round of drinks. We'd ordered our drinks at the bar before sitting down, so he took the venison off of the tab, which we thanked him for, rightfully so.
Overall, I cannot recommend this restaurant. I'm not sorry to have tried it, we had a great time as friends afterall, but the food and atmosphere and slightly dizzying room (no need to have the wallpaper on the ceiling of the bar area as well!) are not worth returning to or even going for a first time.