We dined at Quince for our first time tonight and we will definitely be returning.
I called for a reservation yesterday and they had, basically, nothing all week. Realizing that meant some persistence would be in order, I called again this afternoon and they had a cancellation (they asked for a credit card to hold the reservation, though the woman I spoke with indicated that was only for same-day reservations).
We arrived about 5 minutes early for our 8:30 reservation and they were resetting a table when we got there. We perused the wine list (they were aware that the front of the restaurant was quite dim and provided a small flashlight so we could actually read the list) for a few minutes. The dining room is quite small, but very well designed and the waitstaff is all in exceedingly dapper suits. It created a very cool atmosphere.
The menu posed some challenges simply because many things sounded good. After consulting with our server and determining that the menu was designed to be a 3-course meal, we settled on our choices.
My wife had:
Asparagus with crawfish vinaigrette
Gnocchi with smoked ricotta
Quali with white corn and English peas
American Mackerel, tartare and seared with green almond vinaigrette
Tagliallini with Morrels
Duck, Breast and Leg Confit with Apricots and Artichokes
Our server also guided us to some excellent half bottles of wine to pair with our first and third courses. A 2004 Sancerre and a Big French red that I'm blanking on at the moment, when I remember I'll post it.
The bread basket (plate, actually) was quite good with rosemary crackers, parmesean breadsticks (small, very crispy ones) and chipotle/corn meal rolls. I ate far too many of all of them.
The first courses were excellent: well balanced, nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked. The variations in texture of the mackerel were remarkable. The asparagus and crawfish were expertly cooked and really went well together. The standouts, though, were the pastas in the second course. The tagliallini were perfect and the morels were outstanding with a bit of parmagiano reggiano to highlight the earthiness. The gnocchi were easily the best either of us have eaten: light, airy, soft with a bit of toothiness and the ricotta was an entirely new taste with the smoke. We both agreed that we'd happily go back for several courses of pasta.
We told our server when she brought us the gnocchi that we'd decided we had to eat there after reading about the smoke ricotta in the NYTimes magazine (as I'm sure many others did). The chef apparently thought that was pretty cool and sent out a treat after our pastas. Two stuffed pastas, one with zuccini and another sqaush topped with a tuscan tomato conserve and a tortelloni stuffed with english peas and served with dungeness crab. These were simply remarkable and one of those little suprises that really sets a meal apart.
The quail and duck were both quite good, perfectly seasoned and the duck was cooked to medium rare for the breast and the confit leg was meltingly good. They paled slightly after the pastas but there was, honestly, a whole lot of room to not be as good as the pasta and still be exceptional dishes and these were.
For dessert we had a cherry crespelle which demonstrated that the kitchen has an affinity for working with flours and light doughs...just as with the pasta, the balance and preparation was right on. The baked chocolate mousse had great chocolate flavor though it was perhaps slightly overcooked for my tastes.
After dessert they brought out some strawberry gelee and hazlenut biscotti, both very small and a really nice end to the meal.
The pacing of the service was perfect and they did an excellent job of recapping precisely what was on each plate without over doing it. This is especially important because my wife has some dietary restrictions, so it was great to have a quick explanation as a last line check.
We found the entire experience incredibly pleasant and enjoyable. The food was of the quality of the best meals we've had in the city but the atmosphere a bit more like a neighborhood restaurant, which for us was just right.
Including valet parking, two bottles of sparkling water, after dinner drinks and tax, the tab was right at $270 before tip.
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