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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Say It Ain't So

IT happens to all of us. Your favorite restaurant does something shocking and it's no longer your favorite restaurant.

FRIDAY night, The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English was off to a good start, but soon began to slip...

The beginning of the night was also the best, as my competent server  
quickly set me up with a glass plus a bottle of bubbly

I was meeting my sister, Kim and arriving before our 7:15 reservation, the maître d' was kind enough to allow me to be seated incomplete; the friendly hostess escorted me to "the corner of ocean"--one of the best seats in the house. I was quickly greeted by our friendly server, Michael who'd remembered me from a previous visit and quickly placed a bar order for a glass of my favorite Valdo prosecco plus a bottle of sparkling Pellegrino for the table. Kim arrived shortly thereafter and also decided to start with a glass of Valdo while we perused the various menus...

Nearly no trip to The Food Hall would be complete 
without an order of Kim's favorite stuffed 
medjool dates

Michael gave Kim and me a few minutes to settle in over cocktails before asking if we were ready to place an order. As is my usual style, as of late, I decided to order "gradually," beginning with an order of medjool dates stuffed with cabrales cheese and wrapped in serrano ham. Kim's favorite Food Hall dish, she was pleased to have had them again, but I barely noticed whether they were memorable (this time) or not. 

Chilled prawn cocktail

In the mood for some cold, fresh seafood, I selected the chilled prawn cocktail as a second starter. Excited when the two dishes arrived (we each received our own), I went straight away to dressing the prawns with a  firm, juice-extracting squeeze of my lemon wedge. However, with my first bite of the shrimp, I was sorely disappointed with what seemed to be rubbery, overcooked shrimp. I discussed the disappointment with my sister, who'd said that it tasted frozen and waterlogged. Maybe we'd have better luck with our main course. Scanning the menus for something we'd not yet tried, I suggested she taste some of their sushi which is (usually) quite good.

King crab maki

Kim and I decided upon sharing a king crab maki with cilantro, jalapeño and blackened tuna. The maki arrived, looking less impressive than other sushi rolls I'd seen/had there before. There was nothing whelming about it and I was underwhelmed by the skimpy/unfresh-seeming mounds of wasabi and ginger. In the end, one of the pieces fell apart--any sushi connoisseur knows the importance of a tightly-packed roll. Michael kindly allowed us to enjoy our meal in peace and when he returned to clear away our dishes, I confessed that I'd already taken a look at their dessert menu and wanted to try the (new) cookies and cream plate. ($21)

Cookies and cream plate

On the plate: oatmeal cookie (replaced by a "blondie"); chunky chocolate chip cookie; Nutella Rice Crispy treat; double chocolate brownie"nouveau" black-and-white cookie; cream puffs; vanilla and chocolate gelato; and red velvet Curly Cakes (which were missing from our plate--Michael brought one out separately). I generally don't care for The Food Hall's Curly Cakes, which I'd had there before, although Adam Platt doesn't seem to mind them. Everything else on the plate was o. k.--with the exception of the cream puffs with which they shouldn't have even bothered.

OVERALL, I really do find the experience quite sad because The Food Hall has--for long--been one of my favorite places in the city. But it must be that even at the best restaurants, slumps in standards do happen from time to time (perhaps they're breaking in a "staff-in-transition"--I did see a few new faces behind the lines). But I'll surely return to see if they improve. I still think they have the best "restaurant pizzas" in New York City.
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