Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comment Card: The John Dory

Selecting a restaurant for out of towners is always a tough task. My anxiety quotient shoots up, because the decision is not only a reflection of personal taste, but a test of command over the New York social/dining scene, the results of which could make or mar a visitor's precious, limited time in this great city of ours. What responsibility! AARGH! So yesterday, when I found out that I would be taking 3 Italians out for a night out, I chose the very current, gastro-pubby, seafood spot, The John Dory, in the Meat-packing district. Price was no object for them (Work boondoggle, lucky bastards!), I had read good, not glowing reviews and hoped that the experience would be memorable, based on the images, menu and other deets I had read in the blogosphere.

What I ate:

Amuse Bouche: Parsnip Chips with Smoked Arctic Char Spread
Fresh Oysters
2 Parker House Rolls
Maine Ruby Red Shrimp and Grits
Whole Roasted John Dory for Two
The Huckleberry Jelly with Brandy Snaps filled with Sweet Mascarpone

The shared amuse-bouche of parsnip chips with smoked arctic char spread was flavorful. The sweetness of the chip went well with the salty, smokey char. Some of the chips lacked crisp and were over-saturated with grease, but if you avoided those suckers, then you had a good bite of food. The oysters with the mignonette served on the shell, instead of a dish, was trés mignon.

The shrimp and grits were heavy on flavor and butter, the portion generous, totally sharable with the table. I prefer my grits to have a bit more thickness, the consistency of the grits at The John Dory was a bit too thin for me. I grew up in the South, so I know my grits. The parker house rolls were scrumptious, so buttery and soft, slightly sweet and tinged with the perfect amount of saltiness around the outside. The Roasted John Dory for Two was satisfying and savory. If I ordered it again, I would try it with the spiced carrots. It's a lot of fish to have alone. (I actually wanted to order the inverted squid chorizo, paella dish, but they no longer have it on the menu!) The huckleberry jelly with mascarpone-filled brandy snap was a light dessert. I enjoyed the berri-ness and revelled in jiggle of the jelly. It's not some decadent dessert, but perfect after a buttery meal. I wanted to try the much chattered about treacle, but they ran out.

Side Note: Unfortunately, what was memorable, beyond all things was the wait--the wait for the table, the cocktails, the dessert, and the check. ON A MONDAY NIGHT. Ummm, that pretty much BLOWS.

I was the first to arrive and notified the hostess that I would have to change the 9:30 PM reservation from 3 people to 4 people, surely that wouldn't be a problem! She proceeded to inform me that the change in headcount would indeed be a problem, and that we would have to wait considerably, as a consequence. SERIOUSLY? You were planning to seat us at a special table in the shape of a triangle constructed, specifically for just 3 people, no more? I would have preferred to be told that the diners at our assigned table were not yet finished, instead of being told that our wait was due to altering our reservation from 3 to 4 diners, what seems to be the least problematic numerical change as it relates to restaurant table management. I don't know enough about the restaurant business to know if the hostess gave me a load of malarkey or not, so I reluctantly brushed the annoyance off.

My friends have arrived. No matter. Behind me. Bygones.

After trying to politely wave down the bartender and finally catching her eye, she raised a single index finger, held high up in the air, which we knew was our cue to wait. We endured a sigh-inducing 10 minutes, and then ordered a bottle of Prosecco to take the edge off. We then waited another glorious 30-35 minutes for our table reservation. Once at the table, starters and entrees were served at acceptable wait lengths. However, our dessert order was overlooked, and we waited an eternity for it. Once, we finished dessert, it was already 12:30 and had to wait again for what seemed like a long time to sort out our check, but by that time I was probably impatient, sensitive to the time, and ready to go home and sleep.

Anyhoo...time to wrap-up...

Food: Good and satisfying, has it low points
Service: S...L...O...W...Friendly enough, but not genuinely warm
Ambiance: Nautical Bric-a-Brac Price: Pricey ($80-90/person includes 20% tip and 2 bottles of Prosecco)
Verdict: If you have the discretionary bucks, order the right dishes, and a reservation LOCKED, the experience MAY be worth it. Could be convinced otherwise, if I gave it another go, but not sure if I want to take that risk.

The John Dory
Chef: April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig) Telephone: (212) 929-494 Hours: Monday - Friday 12 noon - 12 midnight and Saturday & Sunday 11am - 12 midnight. Address: 85 10th Avenue (between 15th and 16th Streets), New York, NY 10011. The closest subway station is 14th St/8th Ave (A, C, E and L trains).

The John Dory on Urbanspoon


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