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Dec 11, 2000 11:45 AM

going to 71 clinton -- shower me with your wisdom

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our reservation is finally coming up on wednesday -- what should i get? i've heard something about sea scallops. i'm checking out old threads, but i don't know how often the menu changes.

i'm really looking forward to this one, and it's not often i get to go to a destination restaurant, so i don't want to screw this up. (hopefully wylie will be in the kitchen thus making it almost impossible hard to screw up.)

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  1. i wouldn't worry about screwing up, you'll get a very good meal no matter what you do. that said, i'd caution you against over-anticipation. i dined at 71 clinton late last spring. everything was very good, but except for the seafood sausage, there was nothing that made me say 'wow.' truth is, while the menu is thoughtful and dishes well executed, the restaurant is over-hyped. the buzz when the restaurant first opened was that it was a pioneer - a safe haven for the bourgeoisie venturing to the lower east side, a reason to acknowledge the neighborhood in ways other than the guilty memories over not visiting bubby often enough, an amy irving awakening for the year 2000. and, though its prices were high for the neighborhood, they were comparatively low for manhattan. ignoring the suspicious assumptions paraphrased above, i.e., that lower east side was finally being tamed, even the prices match most of midtown. no big deal if there is magic on the plate. i didn't find any. i should add that service was mediocre at best, with dishes going to the wrong table and then the wrong position. also, my guest and i, who ordered apps, mains, desserts, and wines go to with each, were rushed out of the restaurant in less than 2 hours. it's a small place, and they have a need to turn tables, but come on.

    don't get me wrong, wylie dufresne is a very good chef, and the people who run the place, i.e., wylie, dad and others, are friendly folks. i'd be happy to give it another go (and, conveniently located within blocks of my home), but i won't expect fireworks. i recommend that you don't either. (and, if you do, please let me know - maybe i screwed up).

    9 Replies
    1. re: jr

      good to know. i neede to be talked down, because it's precisely the over-anticipation due to hype that usually ruins my dining experiences (what few there are). i'll report back.

      1. re: emily

        In six words:

        don't waste your time and money.

        And five more:

        go to blue hill instead.

        1. re: Orik

          I've eaten at 71 Clinton several times and had wonderful meals. There are a few things to note. The service is fair at best. The quarters are cramped. The ambiance is fair. That said, the food is wonderful and although it is high priced for the neighborhood, it is reasonable for the quality.

          I haven't tried Blue Hill, but its high on my list.

          Take care,


          1. re: Orik

            "go to blue hill instead."

            then i'd have to wait another four weeks for reservations. i'm hungry now!

            but sounds like you had a bad experience, or maybe more than one. do tell.

            1. re: emily

              As some others have mentioned, I found 71 Clinton amazingly cramped -- we followed the play by play of the blind date next to us with baited breath-- and fairly unremarkable when it comes to food. I can only explain its continuing overwhelming popularity in terms of the novelty value it has as an upscale restaurant in its location (but that shouldn't be that surprising considering people are now paying $3500/month to live in the apts. our grandparents fled...). Basically, Emily, if you are not splurging to go there, I'd keep your reservation -- it's certainly not bad. But if this is a big ticket meal for you, I'd think again. You can certainly do better for these prices...

              1. re: Elaine

                Ate there 2 weeks ago. I couldn't wait - with all the hype, I was expecting the experience of Gramercy Tavern, at 1/8 the price.
                I didn't mind the cramped, noisy setting because that is what I had heard/expected. However, as others mentioned above, the food was quite/very good, but not exceptional (I had the hanger steak/short rib combo - the steak was mediocre, the ribs were good but no better than many other places). Its definitely worth trying, but its not worth a special trip (and after spending 30-40 minutes to get there from the UWS, it felt like one!). Blue Hill is much better as is Annisa.

                1. re: Brad

                  so we went, and it was really good, but, like most of you suggested, didn't blow me away. i spent much more than i normally do to eat (i'm a student living off savings for the moment...), but i'm glad i went.

                  we had the shrimp-stuffed squid and they kindly put it on two plates for us to share. it was wonderful; is using squid basically as a sausage casing a common thing? it worked so well that i would imagine people must have been doing this for centuries. (it reminded me of some shrimp dumplings i had at sweet 'n tart; similar filling, garlicky shrimp.) i had the beer-braised shortribs and hangar steak. the ribs were quite ravishing in a lush, sticky reduction, the steak a bit dry. my friend had red snapper with raising, asian pears, and sunchokes that was really great. for dessert we had molten chocolate/peanut butter cake and banofee (bruleed bananas and warm toffee) tart; the latter was the best.

                  thanks for your help!

                  1. re: emily

                    glad you liked it. like most of us said, 71 clinton fresh foods is a fine restaurant and wylie dufresne is a talented chef. worth the hype? nope. worth a visit? absolutely. as for your question about the stuffed squid "sausage," john schenk makes a moroccan-stuffed squid at clementine. it is also excellent.

              2. re: emily

                In the ten or so times we've dined there, I've never had any problem getting a table at blue hill (although we did have to wait once to avoid sitting near the table of some unmentionable restaurant guide editors). I chose it as an alternative as the price level is similar and judging by some reviews you may have read, you could get the impression that it is similar to 71 in many aspects. The truth (as you will probably find out tomorrow) is that the food at 71 is mediocre and pretentious new-american fare (kind of like an even poorer version of gotham grill) while blue hill serves well executed french dishes with an american influence.

                But of course, this is all a matter of personal preference, try both and you may find out I have no idea what I'm talking about.

        2. Since the others seem to be missing the point that you've waited a while to go to this restaurant and will more than likely go through with it tonight, I will at least try to directly answer your question.

          1) Though the wine list in unexceptional, the drinks and bartender are fantastic. They have a wonderful sangria, the martinis are sublime and they make the best cosmopolitan (if that's your thing) I've tasted.

          2) I was looking forward to the hanger steak/braised short ribs combo, but when I went they only had the hangar steak. It was very good, prepared exactly how I wanted it, but it did not blow me away. My wife had a piece of skate that was moist and delicious.

          3) The appetizers are excellent. Don't miss the shrimp-stuffed squid. It is easily one of the most original and tastiest items I've eaten this year. There is a delicious salmon starter as well.

          4) My service was cordial and the hostess was very friendly. We talked aboout the chef after the meal (there is a slightly open kitchen in the back) and she told me that the menu had slightly changed.

          5) Yes the restaurant is small with few tables. You are on Rivington and Clinton St. for crying out loud! What do you expect? Ruby Foos or Blue Water Grill? I don't think so. Nevertheless, you get a quaint little place where you know the chef is going to be cooking your food every night and not flying around the world to be at his or her 10 other restaurants like so many chefs today.

          6) Enjoy yourself, temper your expectations and report back to us!

          7) Have been trying to get into Blue Hill for several months.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Dan-o

            thanks for your understanding and info. i'll for sure go for the shrimp-stuffed squid.

            let us know if you ever get into blue hill. has *anyone* been there? i'd love to hear about it if they have. (somebody must be eating there night after night; nobody i know.)