Thursday, February 22, 2007

eavesdropping amongst foodies

so i scored a 6:30 reservation at new Keith McNally place Morandi last night. and, unsurprisingly, it was a bit of a scene. however, i had major problems putting names with faces tonight.

justy and i walked into a nearly empty restaurant at 6:30. hosts were pleasant and the staff was attentive, all except our server, who seemed to make it his job to notice that we were waiting on him, just so he could walk away. with menus closed, we waited a good fifteen minutes before the guy came over to take our order. and did the same thing when we were done eating and waiting to get dessert menus and again while we were waiting to order dessert...totally unacceptable.

our only guess as to why we were getting the blow off was because there were so many recognizable people being sat on top of us (and, literally, the tables ARE that close to each other). and though i say they're recognizable, that doesn't mean i know their names. in fact, it's killing me to find out who some of these people are. i'm good with faces and i'd seen all of these people before either at the fancypants club where i used to work, or at any number of foodie events or restaurants i go to (i eat out at least 5 times a week). i notice the name of the check left on the table by a familiar face with tortoise shell glasses: curt gathje. a four-top behind us were getting things sent over every five minutes that were "compliments of the chef." it was anne burrell.

a table was sat to my left, a skinny blond and a rather rotund, distinguished and very familiar looking man with the initials JRP (or maybe TRP) stitched into his pocket. "oh, there's george and his son, and sasha" they say, pointing to the four-top with all the free food. the two tables wave at each other and exchange greetings. distinguished man says to skinny blond, "so, what do you think about the chodorow thing today? do you think it was a joke?" skinny goes on and on about how kobe club is a good restaurant (sidenote: i've been there, it's not) and how it got "all these great reviews!" (it didn't) and how it wasn't fair of bruni and how ruth really is the best critic. skinny ends her stump speech saying she's "on jeff's side."

obviously this woman had no idea what she was talking about. i start to eavesdrop on plump blondie's table. "i totally agree with bruni. all the tastes just meld together so well and i love all the pickled vegetables mixed in. he totally deserves two stars."

in between my eavesdropping i'm filling justin in on the food drama of the day, giving him a summary of the nytimes dining section and trying to rack my brain as to who the hell all these people are. i go back to skinny's table. "in my business..." JRP says as he leads into a commentary about critics/chefs/owning restaurants/etc. so, obviously, he's a food somebody too.

a woman with dark red bobbed hair and cute plastic framed glasses sits kiddy corner to us. McNally goes straight to her, hugs her and says, "i saw your son last week!" and they continue a conversation i can't hear (not for lack of trying). McNally then goes over to plump blond's table, they chat. he comes over to JRP's table, they know each other too. skinny and JRP get up to leave and we hear the server say, "goodbye mister pilo."

that doesn't help. it's a totally unrecognizable name. damnit! plump blonde's table left and a threesome was seated in it. one man, even recognizable to justin, had a salt and pepper beard and mustache, smallish build and, again, seemed to know everyone there.

for as much as i consider myself "in the know" with nyc gastro-news...i obviously have a lot to learn...

onto the food!

we started with an upscale mimosa our server pushed on us. prosecco with blood orange puree. shrug.

appetizers: burrata (creamy mozzarella salad) and fried artichokes. both were good, unexciting.

mushroom risotto with blueberries, exactly what you'd expect. the blueberries hardly added any depth to the dish. there were four of them and they had such a neutral flavor that i wonder what their purpose really was. i suppose it added the slightest hint of tart, but only in the four bites that were lucky enough to catch a berry.

the branzino (bass, roasted whole with lemon) was excellent. the meat was moist, the lemon wasn't over powering and it was served over some salty pickled greens.

dessert: chocolate pudding with a dollop of ricotta whipped cream and drunken cherries.

verdict: i wasn't wowed and i wasn't inspired BUT i feel fairly certain that i'll never have a bad meal on any trips back. which is just about where i'd put all the other McNally restaurants. though a bit predictable, they have consistently good, solid cooking. and for the prices (very reasonable), it's a safe bet any night of the week. though, with the entirely annoying meatpacking crowd that will inevitably make their way over, i doubt i'll be spending too much time there in the near future.