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May 23, 2007 02:01 PM

Insieme - Review

I was very excited to have dinner at Insieme last evening, after recently going to Hearth and speaking the Marco while seated at the Pass. The decor of the restaurant is rather simple and understated - my guess is not to distract from the food. After a couple of initial bumps: took forever to order wine, they ended up being out of this particular wine as well as the first two of the pasta dishes someone in our party had attempted to order (it was a 7:30 reservation, so was not on the late side). After ordering, we were shortly served 4 different amuses (ok but not great) followed by a small sampling of soup (no one particularly like and tasted somewhat chinese like). But once we received what were had ordered - the food was wonderful. For the initial course, I ordered the fish crudo - excellent, and another party, the black olive pasta with duck ragu (a rather small portion but excellent). For entrees, I sampled the salmon (melt in your mouth, barely cook - maybe the best salmon i have ever had!) and I had the lamb - 4 variations: chop, saddle loin, braised ribs and sausage stuffed morrels, served with a sprinkling of fresh sring peas (enjoyed every bite :) ) We followed this with a nice artisinal cheese plate (6 different selection) and Bomboloni (light itialian donuts served with a wonderful chocolate sauce) to share.... Overall, The food was wonderful and I would definately return despite the intial bumps which I believe will be ironed out over time.

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  1. One thing I wonder about is how the food quality compares to Hearth. What's your take on this?

    8 Replies
    1. re: Pan

      based upon what we ordered, i would have to say maybe even better. but they don't have the gnocchi which i love at hearth.....

      1. re: Pan

        i just went (have been to hearth) and say yes on par... later i will write a full review. i really liked it. service was great too,,,

        1. re: jsmitty

          My feeling is if the two places are merely on par in terms of food quality, there's no important reason to pay a premium for merely getting more luxurious surroundings and such.

          1. re: Pan

            Basically, the reason would be that the food is of a significantly different nature from what Marco does so well at Hearth. To do this in the Insieme location, there's a higher cost. As a Hearth fan, I'm anxious to try Insieme now that they seem to be settling in and getting good reviews from folks I trust. The menu looks great and I'll get any overlapping dishes at Hearth :-)

            1. re: Steve R

              In what ways is the food at Insieme different from the food at Hearth?

              1. re: Pan

                Again, I havent been to Insieme yet but my reading of the menu leads me to believe that, although a # of dishes on the "Contemporary" side are prepared in similar style as Hearth, the "Traditional" menu is an attempt to put out dishes prepared in a style that Hearth would not be geared up for. Not to say that even the Contemp. menu has significant overlap of actual dishes with Hearth, since it doesnt seem to, but simply that this side could be done at Hearth. Having eaten at the Pass at Hearth, I wouldnt think that the Trad. side of Insieme's menu could even be produced there without significant kitchen overhaul. Granted, if I were a non-Hearth customer or a Hearth customer like yourself/myself who wants to taste some additional Hearth-type selections not on Hearth's menu, I might go to Insieme get a similar experience to Hearth and just pay more to be in this setting. Or I may choose to not do so (your point) and stay with Hearth for less money. However, that being said, my point was that, as a Hearth customer, I'd go to Insieme (price differential and all) to experience Marco's cooking of dishes that I would never get to experience at Hearth. Dont you agree?

                1. re: Steve R

                  Yeah, Steve, I do agree, if the dishes are good enough and I'm feeling flush with cash. [chuckle]

        2. re: Pan

          Hey Pan, I just had Insieme for dinner for the first time last week (only had lunch there, before). The last time I ate at Hearth was about half a year ago. Based on these experiences, I think the food at Insieme is more "precious" than at Hearth. It's a bit more visual and comes in smaller portions, with more exotic sounding ingredients. I like the way the menu is divided into old and new-style Italian dishes. The menu at Hearth seems to map more closely with the old-style Italian at Insieme.

          While Insieme is a good atm. for wining and dining clients in midtown, I agree with you: If I'm eating on my own dollar, I'd rather eat at Hearth.

        3. I second that salmon praise. It had the most incredible texture...

          1. Could you tell us what they were out of? Was it the lasagne, since it has been so hyped?

            3 Replies
            1. re: chalz

              no, it was the Culingionis con Fava (potato ravioli, fava beans, fennel and mint) and another pasta which was a special (and escapes my recollection).

              1. re: kesues

                i had a delicious meal there a couple weeks ago - including the potato ravioli! i think that the traditional side of the menu is still done with a creative hand.....excellent linguine with clams. chopped clam pieces, whole baby clams, different clam tastes that made it all a bit more complex than usual. loved the uni risotto with some secret smoky taste - i can't figure it out. great slection of shellfish and fish in the stew - spicy, layered sauce that kind of rang out on the tongue.....i know there was more and i know it was good....can't quite remember it all at the moment.

                1. re: djk

                  I am very, very fond of Hearth and was very, very excited by Insieme and was left...wanting. If you enjoy the coziness and warmth of Hearth, you'll be entirely offput by the decor at Insieme which is stark and relatively uninviting. It made me actually squirm. There is no bar to wait at and no open foyer. Most sad of all, there is no open kitchen. While I realize the two are quite different endeavors, one east village homey and one times square hotel-y, i honestly couldn't get past it. The food was quite good but sufficient unmemorable and NYC is full of too many memorable restaurant experiences to return. However, I eat at Hearth at least 5-6 times each year and recall fondly my dining experiences. My boyfriend had the lasagne at Insieme and while very good, he didn't feel it lived up to the hype. I'd pick Hearth again, any day of the week.

            2. I just ate at Insieme on Saturday night with my fiancee. We were seated at a banquette even though there were open booths that we would have preferred. No big deal, though. Waitress was friendly and took our sparkling water order and returned with it, and our menus. Then we waited. For about 15 minutes, we waited, with no bread, no wine, no waitress.

              Eventually, the sommelier came around and he took our order and recommended a mediocre, modestly-priced bottle (we would have gladly paid more for a better wine).

              The food arrived quickly after that, which means that there was no kitchen problem to blame for the delay--the front-of-house staff just wasn't paying attention and/or communicating.

              The tartare was tasty. It had diced raw garlic in there which I liked but she thought overpowered the meat. Perhaps. Also had marinated hamachi which was nice enough as well. For the entrees, we had the lamb four ways (two of which were good, two of which were lackluster). The real disappointment was the lasagne. I read one review that mentioned the meat being overcooked and that's exactly what happened to ours. It was quite dry and the flavor of the meat was so concentrated that it overwhelmed everything else.

              All in all, we were victims of circumstance. I've read about each bad thing that happend to us happening to others there--but never all at once.

              On a positive note, when the bread did finally arrive, the butter was soft and spreadable.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jakew8

                If I can assume that you were given a taste, why is it that you did not refuse the "mediocre" bottle?

                1. re: RCC

                  Because I'm not "that guy" who sends back a bottle of wine just because I don't love it. I only send back bottles that are corked or that are nothing like what was described to me.

                  Oh also... BeanCurdGirl just reminded me... we didn't get the three ABs. Only the egg drop soup which was eh.

                  1. re: jakew8

                    I don't think that by not sending back a bottle because you're not "that guy" is an issue against the restaurant.

              2. I went very last minute with my sister this past Saturday night -- they were very accomodating and friendly, but when we arrived, there was some delay in water, menus, etc. Definitely seemed like a staffing issue. Of the three amuse b's, one was yummy, the other interesting, and the third was like a little egg of fishy oil...and yes, the soup (Italian egg drop) was lacking. The rest of our meal, though, was very good -- my sister had the fish crudo, which was delicious, fresh and presented beautifully, while I started with the gnocci, rock shrimp and lobster mushrooms. The gnocci was tender, the rock shrimp fresh and flavorful and the mushrooms hearty, while the sauce was light and perfect to bring everything together. For entrees, my sister had the much-talked about salmon, which was indeed delicious -- there's a slightly smokey flavor that compliments the fish and it was cooked perfectly (she requested rare). It comes with a heavenly plop of eggplant puree, which was really devine. I had the halibut (I think!), which was flavored with the perfect amount of sage, over cabbage and prosciutto -- very good. All portions were perfect -- not too large, just filling enough. For desert, we had the raspberries with basil sorbet -- MUST HAVE during the summer, while the basil's still bountiful! Although it comes with a shortbread biscuit, which is a tad heavy, on the whole, just wonderful. We also had the fig desert, which was also light, tasty and refreshing. We did have to ask for the check after a kind of long wait (again, service issue), but on the whole, quite a good dining experience. It is a little pricey, but I think it defiitely provides a lovely and calming oasis in a crazy Broadway-show tourists-looking-for-Tony-Romas atmosphere that is Times Square culinary scene (the decor is a little cool, but I think somehow works)...and we're in the neighborhood, so I'm very happy for the addition.