Saturday, May 22, 2010

Minetta Tavern

Admittedly, I am not a steak kind of a girl. It's all well and fine, I have no problem with a good, conscientiously raised, grass-fed piece of meat, I just prefer other proteins. Bruni, Ozersky and Sifton can have all the T-Bones and pork belly they want, Jack Sprat-esquely speaking. So perhaps that was my first misstep in visiting Minetta Tavern, because honestly, it's really little more than an uber-sceney steakhouse. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And frankly, none of the food was bad- it was mostly quite good. Good, not great, and for a place you have to call three weeks in advance for a rezzie, frankly I was expecting a tad bit more. Plus, our waitress suffered a bit of a breakdown prior to even receiving our appetizers, so I can't say I'm buying into all the rage.
We ordered after lengthy perusal of the menu. It's not hugely descriptive, but since our waitress could offer little more than "oh, it's very nice" when asked about a particular selection, we're lucky we made out as well as we did. I ordered a seasonal asparagus salad, served on an exceptional ricotta mousse with a lemony kick and an abundance a marcona almonds. Lovely, although not exceptionally generous. My companion went seasonal, too, with a soft shell crab sautee with fiddleheads and morels (of which I stole all I could get my fork into). That was okay, because his steak was big enough for two (the Flatiron... not the ribeye for two). Ordered medium rare, it arrived barely that, with a slick, salty crust and a(n underdone to my taste) juicy, if not exceptionally flavorful, flesh. My cabillaud en papillote was much skimpier, and REALLY scant of any of the vegetable components ( I was really looking forward to the honshimeji). Lucky for that, I did order a side of spinach. Fresh, garlicky, sauteed spinach. Described as such, arrived as such. Nothing deleterious, nothing exceptional.
The biggest disappointment, however, was our wine escapade. I am NOT that well-versed in wines. There are a handful which I most normally appreciate, and those I remember by name. Of course, none of those were on the list. So I asked our charming waitress what she might offer, given my entree selection, preferred varietals, and a smattering of adjectives: juicy, fruit-forward, not oaky, floral, not too acidic and green were a few I usually toss out. She said she'd bring me a taste of the chardonnay to see if I liked it; I said that sounded perfect. It was oaky. It was minerally. It was not my favorite. So she said, turning on her heel, that she'd just bring me a sauvignon blanc (to taste, first). I swear she brought me back the same glass. Before I could even get a word out, she gauged the expression on my face, whisked the glass, the bottle and her attitude as fast away from our table as she could, straight over to the maitre d'. Who, glancing back at our deer-in-the-headlights/what-the-hell-just-happened expressions, must have correctly ascertained the situation. He summoned the sommelier (most obviously what our waitress should have done to begin with), and he most charmingly offered to bring five glassed of tiny pours to determine one I'd like to drink. How can you turn that down? Now, after tasting the first two, I'd already had probably more than I would've drunk from any glass I'd ordered anyways, and the third was a passable (from what I could even taste at that point), lovely pink rose. I told him I'd just have a glass of that... it was fine, it was perfect. He really wanted me to continue on with the flight, but honestly I think it was all starting to taste the same. He began to turn away to fetch a full glass of the rose, when he returned, and said he'd like to leave the Choice #4; he thought I would really like it. So, with my full glass of rose accanto, I smelled the #4. Citrus, floral, grassy perfume arose from the glass, and a juice bite hit with the first sip. Now THAT was my wine! A Cayuga from upstate (who knew?).
After all of that, and the rest of the perfectly serviceable meal, we had pre-ordered the souffle' (Grand Marnier), which presented itself big and eggy. It was... perfectly serviceably.
Of all the components of my meal at Minetta, that Cayuga (and the sommelier) took a starring role.

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