S'mores at First (genius dessert, not-great dinner)
Don't know why other restaurants haven't thought of this (oh, yes i do, scorched-marshmallow smoke billowing through the restaurant), but we had a fantastic dessert at First (1st ave bet. 5-6) last night, classic s'mores. A pyramid of marshmallows, with skewers, graham crackers, a chocolate bar (wrapped in a "First" wrapper with s'mores instructions, as if we needed 'em) AND an iron cauldron of red-hot coals. With the first marshmallow to puff, bubble and burn, we were instantly transported to giggly (OK, drunken) childhood beach & camp fires.
It was a FANTASTIC end to a mediocre meal (GREAT goat cheese souffle & buffalo-style 'lollipop' wings w/blue cheese fondue, what would have been a perfectly-cooked guinea hen paillard were it not swimming in a too-sweet plum sauce with undetectable melted foie gras mousse...also, overly salty rack of lamb, practically raw [I like lamb rare, but not cold & raw] with a bizarre orzo salad, also too salty, with some horrible sour-cream concoction glopped in; a tuna "filet mignon" au poivre whose peppercorn crust somehow drew out a inedibly fishy taste from what was proably a nice cut of tuna, a hanger steak w/stacked tomatoes and blue cheese, which my friend wasn't crazy about [i didn't try it, but he didn't want it medium-rare, and I find hanger steak gets REAL tough & fibrous if cooked beyond that]...)
Oh, they also have a large martini list, called "tiny tinis", served in mini-carafes, a great deal at $7; most are too sweet, but i LOVED the barely-sweet Pear (vodka w/poire william & a gingered sugar rim).
So, uh, go drink a bunch of tiny tinis and get weird over s'mores.
The martini list makes First a favorite drinks destination of mine. If you're feeling reckless, have them make one in a pint glass. Dangerous, but so worth it. As far as the food goes, I've found that it's better to stick to the appetizers. The goat cheese souffle, the fried oysters with seaweed and wasabi, and the smoked salmon with caviar and creme fraiche are what I've liked the best. Subtlety doesn't seem to be First's strong point. The food beats you over the head with richness and/or cutesiness, and while it can work with a small portion, it doesn't seem to translate well as far as entrees.
First was always good until about a 1 1/2 years ago. Any idea as to why it has changed so much? I too love the smores and we still go there even though the entrees aren't great. We manage to find something appetizing. The BLT is still really good. Just be sure they make the bacon well done and crispy. It's gigantic enough for two if you order a few appetizers.