I'm supposed to follow my rule, which is to follow the chefs, but sometimes I get distracted. Of course, sometimes it is inevitable, like when my friend invited me to a restaurant re-opening that really was really better off shuttered. Planet 212 in Chelsea, who's room is disturbingly incongruous, with loud music and vacant servers, and such choice items on the menu as scallops with mushroom ravioli atop a heap of mashed potatoes (are the channeling "Big Night"?). It was just one bad dish worse than it's antecessor. The room is gaudy and poorly lit, revealing Christmas-light simulations of Siamese decor and offensively pink walls, as well as dark, shadowy nooks. The chairs are uncomfortable and the servers don't know what the hell is going on. (We had to ask the owner just to get the check, after five inquiries to various waiters came to no good end.) Plus, they skimped so much on the alcohol in their juicy-juice cocktails that you couldn't even achieve an improved perspective via beer goggles. Hopefully, their re-opening openness won't last long.
My next misstep ensued from being drawn in by The Smile. More aptly, it should be named The Yawn. If your mom in Nebraska cooked this well, you might be content. But in a restaurant, especially one in this city, you've got bigger britches to fill. The room is darling, mostly repurposed and salvaged furnishings, rustic wooden tables/floors/ceilings, and dried flowers and a homey hodgepodge of painting and bric-a-brac. But that's where all the fun ends. We began with a bright little salad of
shaved fennel, black radish, pomegranate and goat cheese, which was no better than a simple sum of it's parts- the radish was bitey but not particularly tempered by the crumbles of mediocre cheese, and the fennel wasn't particularly sweet (our waitress defended this explaining the end of its seasonality, which was also given as the reason that despite it being listed as a side dish, braised with preserved lemon, it was not available as such. She said it was a typo, but in that they did HAVE the fennel, it was a pretty lame excuse). Instead, we turned our attention to a side of roasted broccoli with garlic butter and brown sugar. My mind conjured up images of oven-charred florets roasted into nuttiness, sparked with a kick of garlic and the caramelized sweetness of brown sugar. Instead, what arrived was six steamed florets, cooked just to the point of optimum nutritiveness, I am sure- like how you cook it at home because you know that's what is best for you, but was in no way roasted, and not what I go out to eat. Furthermore, if there was any butter, garlic or brown sugar on those babies they were apportioned with a VERY stingy hand. I think on the first
spring I tasted a hint of garlic, and the last one might have been a teency bit sweet, but basically, it was six small sprigs of blanched broccoli, at about .95 a pop. I wish I could say the entrees we ordered bucked the trend, but instead, a small piece of overcooked haddock lurked inside an impressive envelope of parchment, and the mushrooms ... oh, make that mushroom (one single one... maybe two) were julienned to feign abundance, but instead ruining its texture and filching it of any flavor, like tepid soaked fungus. The spiced tomato sauce with the lamb meatballs was laudable, but the the meatballs could have been pretty much any ground protein, bereft of any distinct lambiness, or really much flavor whatsoever.
There are desserts to be had, but nothing that looked very inspired. A brownie with gelato, berries and cream, or an actually quite repugnant sounding Nutella and brie baguette. None of those sounded like they would encourage more of smile that we already weren't sporting, so we simply called it a night. And now I reiterate to myself to reason I follow chefs and not just whims... to leave The Smile without a smile is no happy feat, indeed.
PT212 30 W 24th St
Phone: (212) 727-7026
26 Bond StBtwn Lafayette St & Bowery
Phone: (646) 329-5836