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One if by Land, Two if by Sea

  • t


I made reservations there for my girlfriend's Birthday. I have never been there before, so I have no idea on the quality of the food. Any thoughts? Did I make a good or bad decision? Thanks!

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  1. ctrl+f on this board; you will get lots and lots of old posts, which make for an interesting read, and have solidly convinced me never to go there...

    1 Reply
    1. re: freddie

      went for mine and my mom's bday last year. it happened to be restaurant week. i have to say, the room is stunning. we sat upstairs and it was gorgeous but downstairs looked beautiful as well. the food was ok (for $30.12 or whatever it was) you can't really complain. service was good except the only bad thing, and this is pretty bad, was that we ordered a nice cabernet to go with the meal and when it arrived it was freezing cold. we asked them to decant it and they had a huge problem with that and wouldnt take it back after they had opened it. oh well.

    2. I went a couple of years ago. The atmosphere is very cozy and romantic. Disappointly, at the time, I found the food to be mediocre and overpriced. Perhaps it has improved since then, so maybe someone who's gone more recently can weigh in.

      1. If your going just for the food, go somewhere else. If your going for a special evening that your girlfriend will remember, it's a great place. Just be careful, it's one of the top spots in the City to get engaged, and all the girls in town know it. If you take here there she might get the wrong idea when you walk in...

        1 Reply
        1. re: RICKO

          Thanks to everyone for their input. I will go and give a review of the food.

        2. food bad. decor romantic but crowd is B&T, mid-western tourists in sequins or just plain old. Sort of corny place for 2005.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cendant


            I have reservations for a Monday, I will assume that we will avoid the "B&T crowd". And the "plain old crowd" is a good thing, it will ensure a quiet time for the both of us. Food is subjective, as long as it is decent, I don't mind. I'm not expecting David Rockwell decor, corny can be cute.

            1. re: Tommy T

              it will still be B&T on a Monday -- just like Tavern on the Green would be.

              and considering the prices are at a 3-4 star level...no to one star food hardly seems worth it...but if you insist on going, post back on what you think.

              1. re: Nathan


                My girlfriend hinted on going there. It's her birthday, not my first choice. I'm going to make the best of it.

                1. re: Tommy T

                  Hey - you asked for advice. No need to defend your choice. Esp. since you've never been there. Everyone seems to be responding the same:

                  "Any thoughts? Did I make a good or bad decision?"

                  A bad one in most posters opinion. Report back.

            2. re: cendant

              DITTO, THE FOOD WAS REALLY BAD...............

            3. My input would be to skip One if by Land and go next door to ANNISA. Food is wonderful, at least 10x better and decor is minimalistic yet romantic.

              How about a drink at One if by Land and dinner at Annisa? Tell her you did some research and found the food is horrible there but you wanted to take her for a glass of champagne or something?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Raymond

                I really agree - One if by Land is romantic in a pretty standard, almost (but, to give them credit, not quite) cheesy way. Annisa is wonderful - excellent food, great service, nice little bar - I would suggest the reverse - Dinner at Annisa, suggested drink at OFBL afterwards ...

                For me, being surrounded by other couples who are also "going to a romantic place" is decidedly not romantic. It's as if you are in a romance factory of sorts.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  I 100% agree, great idea to go after dinner @ Annisa.
                  I think your best point is the idea of a romantic dinner surrounded by 25 couples having a "romantic" dinner..... in the end isn't very romantic at all. I hope the poster takes the advice and has a wonderful time.

              2. When dining in a romantic setting is the only recommendation. The menu isn't held back by minor glitches; it's flawed in concept and execution. And at $75 a piece, it’s a major problem. The service is rushed, the waiters and runners appear at the table panting like dogs after a long chase. I was not informed of any special, received no description of the menu or the courses.
                Worst is the food, their culinary claim to fame is beef Wellington, here is my recent experience there:
                A generous chock of meat floating in a pool of coagulated ‘wine’ sauce landed with a thud in front of me. I was informed it was my beef Wellington. I was intrigued: last time anyone had beef Wellington in my family, President Roosevelt was in office. That’s Theodore. The beef was rubbery and tasteless. I scraped the whole wretched garnish to one side. Bordelaise sauce appropriated its name fraudulently, it’s more like a gravy.
                I couldn't help but think at this price I could be dining at the Little Owl.
                This restaurant clearly lives on its image of romance and glitter. In a city where romantic dining has improved out of sight in recent years, One if by Land is a bleak spot on the culinary landscape.

                3 Replies
                1. re: voodoochildtwo

                  Good to have an update - to link to when people ask about it! Sorry you had to experience it!

                  1. re: voodoochildtwo

                    There is no doubt that beef Wellington is a retro dish. The last time we had it was in London during the mid-80's. It was a specialty of that particular restaurant, and I must say we were surprised that it turned out to be an excellent version.

                    Btw, OIBL recently hired a new chef who, from what I've read, has excellent credentials. Sounds as though the owners are looking to raise the culinary level substantially. We shall see....

                    1. re: voodoochildtwo

                      YES, the beef wellington was a horror. We sent it back twice. We like the beef rare, it was white.................the evening was so bad they comped the meal. that is what it was worth

                    2. This place has always been bad--I was taken there in the 1970's and it was lousy then.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: whs

                        Food not worth price neither in taste nor money... A Has been...Much better choices available..

                        1. re: DoctortedNYC

                          You had a recent review too, right? I'll try to find and bookmark as well for responses to future queries!

                            1. re: DoctortedNYC

                              What is weird is that I went here during restaurant week in August -- and my fiancee and actually thought the food was very good. The pork dish (I cant remember the name) was excellent. And the soup we had was awesome.

                              I wouldnt say it would have been worth paying full price for. But it was certainly worth paying restaurant week price for.

                              The service was unobjectionable, and the space was beautiful.

                              1. re: toum

                                I also had a good Restaurant Week dinner there. Everything was pretty tasty. Maybe paying less makes the food taste better!

                        2. re: whs

                          The space is very pretty, and the food is less than mediocre EVERY time my wife has insisted we go back. It's a shame, because if they could upgrade the food we'd have a beautiful NY spot to brag about. BTW, beef wellington may be retro, but if done correctly, what's wrong with that?

                          1. re: addictedtolunch

                            I agree that there is nothing wrong with a retro dish that is correctly prepared and delicious.

                            As I mentioned in my previous post, a new chef has been hired so, perhaps, you may get your wish for upgraded cuisine. It will be interesting to see if he keeps the beef Wellington on the menu.

                        3. I remember telling one of my non-Chowhoundish friends about my dinner at Daniel when he said I haven't had excellent food until I've been to One if by Land, Two if by Sea. His exact words were, "The best restaurant in NYC." So there are some people who do enjoy it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            Had he actually been to other NYC restaurants?

                            This place has never been great. As far as romance...I find it completely cheesy (also stodgy and dated). Not romantic at all.

                          2. I went once, roughly four years ago. I know that I'd be in the minority but (gasp!) I acually enjoyed the food. We went expecting a restaurant week menu but it turned out we'd missed the window for it so we ordered their prix fixe. I remeber loving the oysters on the half shell with a green apple granite. My entree was roasted duck with seared foie, also very good. I admit the decor is on the cheesy side but as a culinary experience, it wasn't half bad.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kayonyc

                              I agree...there is nothing wtong with retro dishes..but voodoochild2 described the BW perfectly...Also the matress d' reminded me of Nurse Rachet.

                            2. I read all of the comments on this board, and will simply post a comprehensive reply to the original poster here.

                              I went there for dinner on a recent (June 2008) Tuesday, non-holiday, night from 9pm to about 11pm. Occasion was my girlfriend's birthday. It was the first time to One if by Land for both of us.

                              My reservation was made through OpenTable.com and was made a couple of months in advance. OpenTable indicated that the restaurant allows a maximum of 2 months in advance for reservations. If you plan to go there on a major occasion/holiday, such as Valentines Day, you had better lock it in very early. The 2-month window may not be enough. I would suggest that, if you really want to ensure getting a table, greasing someone's palm for an advance reservation would not be out of line here.

                              My dinner reservation for two was for 8:30pm. I had an emergency and was running late. I alerted the restaurant and apologized, and the gentleman that answered the phone indicated not a problem at all, and I moved the reservation back to 9pm. Then again, it was a Tuesday, non-holiday night. I imagine a Friday or Saturday night might pose a problem.

                              We arrived at the restaurant at around 9pm, and parked directly across the street in a garage. The garage is not affiliated, so there is no discount for diners at One if by Land. Parking turned out to be $40 for about 2 hours, plus a $5 tip.

                              There's no name on the outside of the restaurant, just the building #, 17 Barrow Street. The entrance is in white stone, and set in a pretty, curved arc, design. So it is not easy to miss. (I read, after our dinner, that the restaurant was an old carriage house, from the early days of our nation.) It has two separate entrances. The entrances are separated by a little raised dais, on which sat the piano and piano player. You enter through curtains. You pass the piano player and come to the bar and couch-lounge area. There's also a fireplace. You walk past that to get to the hostess station. The hostess was easy-going and friendly. I apologized for our being late and told her we had an emergency. She handily dismissed it as not a problem at all and asked if everything was alright and asked where we would like to be seated. I said it was the first time for both of us. She noted that it was my girlfriend's birthday. When booking online through OpenTable.com, there is a space for special requests, and I requested a small, birthday dessert if possible. The hostess suggested we sit on the 2nd floor, which has a row of tables overlooking the first floor. I think they refer to it as the Mezzanine. She further asked if we would like to be seated face-to-face or next to each other. I chose the latter. I'm glad she asked as I had been wondering how I would deal with the seating arrangement. I like side by side as that is more intimate. The hostess also gave us a choice of an open-floor table or a corner/sofa table. The dining area had only a few tables filled at the time. We chose the corner. I realized afterwards that perhaps I should have tipped her and I went back downstairs to the hostess station sometime later and tipped her a $20. She appreciated that. Service was top-notch from the start. The bread guy (sorry, is there a term for this person?) brought over a tray selection of different breads and introduced each one. What's that name of the Italian toasted bread?; olive bread; 7-grain bread; dinner roll, plus one more that I can't remember. We chose the olive bread and the 7-grain. Both were just mediocre. Nothing that can't be matched by a decent diner's dinner rolls. The menu offered 3 options: a regular tasting menu ($95); a summer tasting menu ($78); and a Prix Fixe ($78). If you choose the tasting menu(s), it is recommended, and I suppose, general protocol, that the entire table orders it, thus potentially limiting our choices. My date and I decided on the Prix Fixe, figuring we would share everything, and that would allow us to try the greatest number of items. The Prix Fixe includes an appetizer, entree and dessert. For the appetizer, we had the sepia (a type of fish - I didn't know this) plus sauteed gulf shrimp. Sepia was nice, light and firm in texture. Taste was just okay, not mind-blowing. It was accompanied by diced pineapple. The sauteed gulf shrimp were large and fresh, but taste-wise, again, not spectacular either. Up to this point, I was not blown away by the food. The waiter was very attentive and patient, but from the atmosphere, one might expect this. The gentleman that refills our water glasses was on top of the water situation. For our entrees, we chose roasted duck breast and something called a pastilla with leek and walnut. After reading this board, after our dinner, I realized I perhaps should have chosen the Beef Wellington. For one, I've never had it before. Two, it seems, that is one of their signature dishes. I would have liked to have tried it, even if it is not good. The duck was just average. Your run-of-the-mill Cantonese Chinese restaurant in Chinatown does a much better job with roasting duck. There was accompanying "duck cannoli", some sort of shredded or minced duck meat, or parts, not sure, wrapped in some sort of skin. Too salty, I thought. I didn't like the pastilla. I didn't know what it was and decided to be adventurous. The pastilla is a round patty, about the size of a knish, consisting of a very thin, flaky skin wrapped around what must have been a mixture of leek and walnut. Tasted funny. I'm not sure, but I think they said there was cumin in it; that must have been the funny taste. You can confirm this by seeing the online menu. It was accompanied by very thin slivers of green beans and cous-cous, which were just mediocre. Desserts we chose were the strawberry shortcake and dark chocolate mousse soufle with rocky road ice cream. The shortcake came with a thin wafer cookie sandwiched in between some fresh strawberry halves and some vanilla ice cream. The souffle was too sweet, I thought. Plus, Nobu, further downtown, does the chocolate souffle thing better in their bento box dessert. We shared one flute of champagne for celebratory purpose. Bill came to $195 base, and I tipped 30% for total $250. Add in the $20 tip to the hostess, and it becomes $270. Service was very attentive without being overbearing. Overall, the food was not to my liking. But taste is highly subjective. All the dishes were well-presented though. After our dinner, I went back to their website to read some of the reviews. To their credit, they posted some mediocre reviews as well. I guess the head chef now is this guy from Australia named Hopson. If their food was sub-par before him, I guess they've made efforts to improve; however, in my opinion, still not enough to my liking. There was no a la carte menu, by the way. If you go to this restaurant, expect a romantic setting, and also please remember to bring your etiquette. Another couple was seated later, in the opposite corner of the room. The guy's cell phone rang loudly at first. The waiter walked over and asked, with a feigned tone of curiosity, whether it was a radio. The customer said it was a cell. But that was sufficient to hint to him to keep it silent. Adjacent to us was also a 4-person table, 2 couples, who were talking loudly. They were obviously having a good time, not that there's anything wrong with that, and not too loud, but loud enough such that it is noticeable in the otherwise intimate setting. A poster somewhere wrote that the staff is uptight. I don't agree. They try to preserve their intimate atmosphere, which is what One if by Land is known for, and they probably expect diners to behave accordingly. At the end of our dinner, we took a couple of pictures with the help of the waiter. Then the other 2 remaining couples in our area also started taking pictures. The restaurant is well-known for hosting special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, etc. The piano-playing was nice. The pianist played the usual standards. It was loud enough that the music filtered up to the Mezzanine to our table in the back corner. I imagine it would have been too loud if seated close to the piano. I think, overall, it was a good experience. One might consider One if by Land a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But, on a different occasion, I might select a less formal place.

                              I respectfully disagree with those who consider this place touristy, cheesy, corny or cliche. As the saying goes: it is what it is. It's a romantic place. Know that going in and accept it as such. Although the poster who wrote that it felt like a romantic factory makes a good point. One could argue that a place that is reputed to be romantic and surrounded by other romantic people may not be all that romantic after all. My advice is to take it in stride.

                              Bottomline review: the dinner experience was pleasant. Cost was significant, albeit reasonable (subjective, of course, and varies from person to person). Food (most to all of it) was not to my liking. However, service and ambiance were top-notch. Romantic. I would recommend this place, with caveats, and I would likely return there in the future.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: nooyawka

                                Thanks for posting this - we don't often see actual hands-on reviews of the food here, though many of us (I'm guilty too) recommend staying away based on long-past experiences or word of mouth. The room is lovely, and I can see it being a nice place to have a glass of champagne. I have to confess to being a little curious though, given the many other great restaurant choices at that price level, and your review of the food, why would you return? I hope that doesn't put you on the spot, and maybe I've misread your comments about the food, but they seemed mostly negative.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  I, too, am curious as to what the latest word on this place is. I believe I've read that there is a new chef and a significantly improved/revamped menu. I've never been, but while I can see the piano player and old-school atmosphere being a turnoff, I do think there can be a place for that in the dining universe - and no reason why the food shouldn't be of high quality.

                                  Plus, I think Beef Wellington can be pretty delicious....

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    You're quite welcome. I'm often guilty of passing on outdated advice as well. I guess it's human nature to want to opine. It is important to remember, and I try to apply the following rule-of-thumb nowadays: either try a place for myself, or accept a recommendation that is current to within about 6 months. Anything older can be inaccurate as changes often take place...or not. You're correct, my comments about the food are almost all negative. I would categorize the food as sub-par to average. Again, I caution that taste is highly subjective. I would return to One if by Land simply for the atmosphere and ambiance only. And, if I manage my expectations, then it would be a positive experience. My date and I were just out to have a good time, celebrating her birthday. So, while I was dining, I was fully aware of my opinion of the food (I certainly didn't voice my criticism at the table), the over-arching goal was just to have an intimate evening. And OIBL fit the bill perfectly. However, your question of why I would return when there may be better, comparable restaurants, is a good one and one to which I don't have a good answer. I simply am not as in-tune with all the great NYC restaurants anymore, nor can I regularly afford them. I am familiar with, for example, Nobu, Next Door, and 57th St., as I have been there on multiple occasions, on my friends' dime(s), thankfully. I could easily have chosen the original Nobu as a reliable and perfect setting. OIBL simply came to mind first, the romantic theme, plus, I had never been there. So it would be a first for both of us.

                                    1. re: nooyawka

                                      Thanks for your thoughtful response. Maybe next time you are looking for a special place with your date, post back here and we'll try to help you find great food and the atmosphere you are looking for, at a price that you are comfortable with and that might give you more food value for your money. I think there are actually a number of smaller restaurants that are romantic, have great food, and are less expensive than OIBL. Most of our experiences with more expensive dining are with visiting relatives who treat, or as a result of my husband's business entertaining, and so I certainly am in the same position as you in terms of spending a lot of our own dollars on very high end meals. We actually tend to eat at home for special occasions, because I love to cook, but that's a topic for another thread!

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        1. I did NOT find this place to be romantic. Yes the atmosphere was nice, but not romantic. Unless you call piano music romantic.
                                        What I did find was a one dish restaurant (Beef Wellington) BIG DEAL!
                                        And I also found the service to be pretty darn bad. Would I go back? Not on a bet.

                                        1. re: Nancy191

                                          I ate here twice last summer at the insistence of others. On the first occasion, I thougt the food and service were both terrible (had to send more than one entre back, took forever, could'n't get water refilled, etc.). The second time proved that the awful first experience was no fluke. I don't think the food is as good as the local coffee shop, where expectaitosn and prices ae far lower. The service is an odd combiantion of haughtly and highly unprofessional. One waiter we had gave the distinct impression of being a NY actor who believed wating tables was way beneath him. (Of course we have had excellent actor/waiters many times!)

                                          I think OIBL is part of that funny NYC equation: Great view/location/theme = really lousy food. There are exceptions (River Cafe) but all to many that prove the rule (Tavern on the Green)/