So, I decided to give Insieme a try for Valentine's Day/my SO's birthday after it was ranked as one of the 10 best new restaurants of 2007 by both Frank Bruni and New York Magazine. Plus, it was one of the few restaurants I could find on V-Day without a special prixe fixe menu.
A great choice...especially in the company of Chef Marco Canora...which I'll get to later.
We had an 8pm reservation and killed the 45 minute wait time by getting some drinks from the bar. Hostess was extremely apologetic about the wait and our drinks were comped. Along with our first two glasses of wine. Who can complain??
During a bathroom break I ran into the Chef, who stands overlooking the front of the restaurant and opening the door for patrons. We talked about his other restaurant (Hearth), and he was extremely pleasant and appreciative. What a treat! He ended up sending over a plate of decadent but light pineapple and hazelnut risotto. Another treat!!!
Ambience: Really open, contemporary space---small but miraculously quiet. Great tables for larger groups in the middle and booths on one side of the restaurant, which would be ideal seating. Crowd was sophisticated and older.
Food: The menu is diverse and interesting, split into a "traditional" and "contemporary" menu as well as a prixe fixe. The meal was accompanied by 2 wonderful amuse bouche surprises---one of which i vividly remember as a a smooth, silky egg-drop soup. For appetizers we shared the "fish crudo" which included 3 elegantly displayed bites of yellowtail, barracuda and branzino tartare. Portions were all very tasty, but so tiny that they all ended up tasting quite similar. For entrees SO got the lamb dish (different cuts of lamb), which he loved (and he eats lots of lamb). The most disappointing point of the night was my entree, which was a farfalle pasta with shrimp and mussels. the farfalle was outstanding---rich in its own right with a hint of a butter parsley sauce. However, there were about 3 shrimp, all cut into tiny pieces and very plain, and 3 meesly muscles. Really a shortcoming for a very pricey dish and a restaurant focusing on small, but sophisticated dishes. Dessert was yet another gratis plate of small cookies, and ANOTHER gratis plate of bites of different desserts with "Happy Birthday" written on the plate. Thank you Marco!
Service: Absolutely fantastic. The waiter was clearly busy, but he did his best, and the service never suffered because of all the other staff constantly refilling our water, wine, resetting our utensils, etc. I've never been treated so well in a NYC restaurant, or by the restaurant's chef himself.
Overall: The disappointment in my entree seemed minor in comparison to the king-like treatment. Plus, who can complain for getting 6 drinks, 2 amuse bouches, 1 app, 2 free risottos, 2 entrees and 2 free desserts for $130 (w/out tax & tip)!!! I would definitely return, even to pay in full.