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Mar 9, 2008 07:37 AM

Has Anyone Been to SOLO for the Top Chef?

Are they serving a new menu, or is it still the same menu? How was the food?

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  1. I have reservations on Thursday but I might have to travel on business, unfortunately.

    1. I was there last night (3/9) - they offered a "special" menu (if you call a Xeroxed piece of paper "special), that was a much more limited selection than their regular menu. I was extremely disappointed by the choices. I thought this would be an opportunity to experience some Vietnamese influenced "flights of fancy", but there didn't seem to much in the way of "exotic" offerings. I'm ashamed to say that I ended up paying $61 for a ribeye steak and 5 steak fries, which were decent at best. I'm not really sure why they went to all teh trouble of getting a "top chef" if they weren't going to allow him to showcase his talents.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bigredesq

        When I saw that Hung was going to guest chief there I thought of getting reservations for me and my wife, but then I saw the menu he was preparing, and thought it would not be worth the price.

        1. re: azcohen

          Where did you see that menu? I didn't see anything on their website with a special menu.

          1. re: craigcep

            I saw it in the NY Post, they had an articile about it, and Hung mentioned the items he was making.

            By CARLA SPARTOS
            Hung Huynh goes porkless at kosher restaurant Solo.

            "Top Chef" fans will be able to find out starting today, when Hung begins a one-month gig manning the stoves of the Midtown power place. His menu will feature Asian-accented Mediterranean fare such as sautéed red snapper with roasted fennel and zucchini and red pepper-olive oil emulsion, served for the likes of Donald Trump, Mayor Bloomberg and Sacha Baron Cohen.

      2. I was just there with my wife (Sunday 3/16 in the evening) and we would agree with bigredesq that it was extremely disappointing. We had watched Chef Hung on Top-Chef and were expecting intricate creations that you typically can't find at a Kosher restaurant. We ended up getting the veal and angus steak which were no better than the food at a kosher catered wedding. The highlight (besides seeing Chef Hung go table to table) ended up being the desert which as far as we know Chef Hung did not contribute to.

        Overall if you keep Kosher stick with Prime Grill or Abigaels.

        1 Reply
        1. re: RichieK_UWS

          Went with a group of 7 people (i was on the only one who kept kosher) on Thursday night. Extremely disappointed. Service was terrible to the point of embarrassing. Angus steak was good, but the rest of the food was nothing special.

        2. We were there last night and had a totally different experience. It was wonderful. I will report back later today with the full details.
          Bruce in Belle Harbor

          13 Replies
          1. re: nyy7

            As promised here is a short review of our experience Sunday night:

            The Starters were quite fantastic: We had the "Kona Kampachi Two Ways"
            The yellowtail was very, very fresh and the poached way was wonderful, but the raw portion was superb!! I think the Citrus Salt was an amazing touch to the dish and I suspect it was a Hung classic.

            The 5 spiced Braised Veal Tongue was very inventive especially with the Apple Persnip Puree. Both my son-in-law and myself love tongue, and he makes it different ways, and he loved this dish.

            I had the Pan Roasted Sweetbreads, which were amazing. The consistancy was perfect ant the addition of the carrots with a glaze and the Black Truffles
            really offset and melded at the same time with the meat.

            My wife, being not as adventerous started with the White Asparagus with Mushroom Vinaigrette, and she loved them. Nothing too exciting, though.

            Both my daughter and wife had the Seared Red Snapper, and my wife, who doesn't usually rave about fish, really enjoyed this one. It was cooked perfectly anf the Roasted Fennel and Red Pepper emulsion added great flavor.

            I had the Grilled Turbot on a bed of Oyster Mushrooms and, again, it was cooked perfectly, was a fairly large serving and the flavor was enhanced by the Roasted Fish Jus.

            My son-in-law had the Sauteed Lamb Filets with artichokes and Chick Peas, and he enjoyed it, but it was not exactly as rare as he wanted it.

            We ordered two sides for the table, both very tasty. The sauteed Green Beans with onion and Chili Flakes was very inventive and the Mashed potatoes with scallions and Olive Oil were good ol Mashed Potatoes.

            We shared desserts that were all wonderful. Our service was very attentive and gracious. We were there at 6:30 on Sunday and the place was packed. Hung did come around twice while we were there for hand shaking and photo-ops.

            As tou can tell, we enjoyed the evening and the food. If you are going, try to stay away from the Steaks and Veal Chops. You can always get them anytime and why not sample some of Hung's real artistry!!

            Bruce in Belle Harbor

            1. re: nyy7

              Thanks for the report, I am just wondering from the other people who reviewed if they had been there before and experienced it the same way in regards to service or was this the first time there?

              1. re: JS69

                I am attaching a scan I did of the menu. It is a PDF file and I am not sure if it will work.

                Bruce in Belle Harbor

                1. re: nyy7

                  Nope. Didn't work, E-Mail me at and I will send you a copy.

                  Bruce in Belle Harbor

              2. re: nyy7

                We were there on Sunday as well...I was amazed at the prices, frankly. Most starters in the $20's, main courses in the $30's for fish and $40-50 for meat...yikes. Desserts (which I didn't try-$14.)
                The wine list is very limited (and kosher, which is not great, in my mind)-and the service was pretty sloppy for the price (my wine glass was filled to the top, our mains were served before they replaced our silverware, I was given the wrong dish...)
                I thought the kampachi dish was very nice (though not even close to a similarly priced crudo plate at Anthos I had the night before.) The snapper and the bass were also very good, nicely cooked and seasoned.
                I'd be interested in trying Hung's food again, but not at these prices and not with sloppy service and a not great space.

                1. re: David W

                  David, I hope you did realize that this was a kosher restaurant you went to.

                  1. re: azcohen

                    Yes, I did. But most of the other kosher places I've been to are in Brooklyn and not so pricey...and yes, I expected the kosher-only wine list, but it was very limited.

                    1. re: David W

                      I have to echo David's complaints. I was there the other day and was very happy with the food and the service (which has been consistently great every time I've been there), but the prices for the "special" menu are noticably higher than those for the regular menu, and the wine list is much smaller (and with less impressive offerings) than it used to be.

                      1. re: LI Guy

                        I have reservations for tonight.

                        1. re: DeisCane

                          Yes, the prices were high. It's a form of gouging, and aside from the veal (I think), the prices weren't obnoxious, imo, just too high. Did that make sense? :-)

                          I had the sweetbreads, which were excellent, while my friend had the kampachi, also very good. For the main course, I had the filet, which was good, but not great (they need new steak knives!), and she had the halibut, which was very good. For dessert we had the date pudding, which we both agreed was good but overwhelmed at times by the rum sauce. The service was great and the place was jumping.

                          1. re: DeisCane

                            Gouging? It's called capitalism. Thank you all for the reviews.

                            1. re: tomby

                              Yeah, I was trying to use gouging in a way that brought the least negative connotation possible. I guess it didn't work. :-)

            2. Last night, for my birthday, my husband and I went to Solo. We had been there years ago and were still recovering from the disappointing food and pricey check. But, being that we are religious watchers and sometimes fans of Bravo's Top Chef, we had to give Solo another chance. For the past month, the restaurant has boasted Hung Huynh, last season's Top Chef winner, as its guest chef. While, I was rooting for a Cassie win, my husband was a Hung fan. On the show, he definitely showed he had skills and could butcher a chicken faster than you can read this sentence. So, we went to Solo with high hopes. We expected dishes that would surprise us, include tastes and techniques new to our palates and definitely new to the overall Kosher scene. Unfortunately, as with many complaints on the Bravo show, Hung's food lacks one key ingredient.

              Before I get into the food, there were a number of issues with Solo's atmosphere and service. We were shown to our table of two, which was nestled between two other tables of twos. The staff had to pull the table out so that I could carefully squeeze through and not tip any of the glasses or dishes off of the table next to us. It should be obvious, that if you must pull the table out, your tables are placed too close together. When people are paying over $50 for an entree, the atmosphere should not be of a crowded diner or deli. The entire meal, we could hear every conversation spoken by our close neighbors. On one hand, I was then able to know if they were enjoying their dishes. On the other, it was distracting and not at all romantic.

              As the couple on our left finished their meal, they requested to see the Top Chef himself so that they could personally send him their compliments. The waiter then had to deliver the bad news to them, and us who could overhear everything being that we were practically sitting in their laps, that Chef Hung was not even there that night!!! He had a scheduling conflict. Wow! That was a huge disappointment. Since, we had yet to receive any food, we contemplating leaving and getting a tasty burger from somewhere else. I personally felt betrayed. He is the guest chef for 1 month, how could he not be there? And, on a Sunday night? The restaurant is closed on Saturday. Sunday night is probably the busiest night for a kosher establishment. How could he just not be there? I personally feel that when we called earlier that day to confirm our reservation, the restaurant should have informed us of Hung's absence. We would have greatly appreciated their honesty and rescheduled our reservation for a different night. Instead, nothing was said. Hung's picture was still displayed on a board outside the entrance of the restaurant as if he was the one searing the Halibut in the kitchen. While he was not present, his menu was still being executed. So, we decided to stay.

              After we ordered, our appetizers almost immediately arrived to the table. No time was given for us to settle in and take in the experience. Looking at the plate on my side topped by a butter knife, I asked my husband "Do we get bread?". He then asked the waiter for bread. After we had finished our appetizers, the bread man arrived. Unfortunately, the bread was still cold inside. I think that was a big blunder. Nobody should have to beg for some bread.

              And now onto the actual food. For appetizers, I order the Kona Kampachi. My husband had the sweetbreads. Kona Kampachi, is a Hawaiin Yellowtail, and was prepared two ways: 1 raw and the other cooked. I personally enjoyed the dish. The fish was clean and I believed went well with the lemon, olive flavorings of the accompanying sauces and garnishes. My husband found the lemon and olive overpowering. We both agreed that we have had better sushi dushes in other places. My husband's sweetbreads were very tasty. The sauce especially was delicious. However, the portion size was too small for a $26 appetizer and made my husband worry about the sizes of the entrees.

              For our my main dish, I was deciding between the seared Halibut or the Red Snapper in curry broth. I sided with the waiter's suggestion and ordered the Halibut. My husband went for the braised short ribs. I will start with my husband's dish. Again, this dish was OK. The size portion was much better than his appetizer and the braised meat was soft and covered in a wine sauce. The piece of meat was a bit too fatty and the dish itself, while sweet from the wine, lacked seasoning, as salt and pepper seemed to be missing. This turned out to be a similar flaw with my fish dish. My seared Halibut dish was probably the worst dish of the night. The fish itself did not seem to be seared. It arrived on a bed of Spinach and much to my surprise was topped with bruschetta (and not roasted tomatoes as the menu described). When eating the fish with the bruschetta together, the flavor was ok. You basically just tasted the strong flavors of basil, garlic and even olive (flavors almost too similar to the garnishing and sauces in the earlier Kampachi dish). When I went for a bite of the fish alone, I was shocked at its poor offerings. It was dry and completely bland. Again it was begging for some salt and pepper. In addition, the crusting on the top of the filet was not reminiscent of a searing. We dont believe it was seared at all. The dryness itself makes us believe the fish was at some point baked. Even if the fish was properly seared and seasoned, the dish overall would have fell short. Fish with bruschetta is not the type of innovation I was hoping for. I made a very similar tasting dish from a Kosher Palette cookbook called tomato basil chicken. My husband even commented that the bruschetta itself was not so good and that he thinks my version beats Hung's.

              In conclusion, Hung's offerings were missing one key ingredient. Salt? Pepper? While that is true, the ingredient I am speaking of is: SOUL!!! It is hard to explain what soul tastes like. But, when you eat food made with soul, love, passion- you know it!!! Hung's lack of soul was the big complaint they had on Top Chef about his cooking. Maybe, its because he is still young. Maybe, cooking Kosher presented too much of a challenge. Or, maybe the kitchen just messed up in Hung's absence. Either way, we left unsatisfied, wishing that Stephen from Top Chef season 1 was in the kitchen instead (he is a Cornell alumni ya know!).

              2 Replies
              1. re: foodlover26

                I've been thinking about this since you posted it yesterday. If I were you, I'd be pretty pissed that Hung wasn't there. That's the reason you decided to be at the restaurant! Missing a Sunday night dinner service at a kosher restaurant, when you're only supposed to be there one month, seems ridiculous. You certainly should have been told in advance.

                1. re: foodlover26


                  I am sorry you had such a bad experience. Most of your critiques are well-founded and you have a right to be angry about the poor food and poor service (I often lament that Kosher establishments seem to universally feel that good customer service is not important). Nonetheless, I must inform the kosher masses about a few things regarding "proper" dining:

                  First, in MOST restaurants with a high profile chef it is not uncommon at all for the Executive Chef (or Chef/Owner) not to be present several nights of the week. Sometimes the head chefs is only around during the daytime. The Executive Chef creates the menu and will train his sous chefs on how to prepare it. IF the chef is there at all, he is often merely serving as an expediter or glad-handing the patrons.

                  Second, regarding bread: I don't know when the tradition of "warm rolls" began as a meal, but it's a pretty provincial American expectation. Bread is properly served along with the salad course, or perhaps along with the soup course, if there is one. What was brought to your table was not an appetizer but an "amuse bouche", sort of a pre-appetizer, often served complimentary. It is absolutely properly brought to the table immediately upon seating (usually after water is poured and a cocktail is offered), often even before menus are presented. Once ordered, the cold appetizer comes first, then hot appetizer/soup, then salad, then entree, then dessert. Generally speaking the meal should progress from lighter fare to heavier (this is a tried and true way of dining). From a culinary perspective, the bread would unnecessarily dull the tastebuds before what should be a very fresh tasting cold appetizer, or subtle hot appetizer. Both the amuse bouche and the appetizer courses are meant to prime the appetite, not satiate it, (hence the word "appetizer") before delving into bread and heavier items. Now some people like to show up starving and demand bread right away, but it's generally considered unsavory to begin the meal this way. Also, those who start with bread usually end up being too full to enjoy their entire meal (this is another reason for holding off on the bread to begin with). So, think of it this way: the appetizer is not really part of the meal, it's just a nosh during cocktails. The meal begins with soup or salad course, by which time most good restaurants should have brought you fresh, house-baked bread, served at room temperature. I think the warm rolls thing is a vestige from the Great Depression, when temperature (specifically warmth) was considered a flavor. No doubt our Jewish ancestors felt the same way! Now, I enjoy a nice slice of Challah with a warm bowl of Cholent more than about anything in the world, but when one goes out for the purpose of a dining "experience," the protocol is different. You are paying big money for each course, so the idea, I think, is to enjoy each one on it's own merits, without any extra items spoiling the flavor palate. The bread is just a side show, grudgingly included as an homage to time when soup and salad along with a slice of bread WAS the meal.

                  Now, the salt issue. I must say, I agree with you on this one. In recent years there has been an increasing trend toward not putting salt and pepper on the table. Now the S&P are also somewhat of an homage to a time when food was often not well seasoned. As a matter of fact, the likelihood is that prior to WWII (when most American dining traditions were established), the food was downright bland and devoid of all flavors. Salt, in years past WAS the flavor (not just the seasoning). So it stands to reason that people could "flavor" their own food with more salt or pepper if they so desired. I also have a theory that the prevalence of cigarette smoking had something to do with this tradition -- back in the first half of the 20th century, when more people smoked, there was a greater disparity between people's level of salt preference. These days, some "haute" chefs feel, apparently, that their food is seasoned perfectly, and, therefore, no S&P on the table. I have two problems with this. First, smoking aside, there still is quite a disparity between people's salt tolerance, and their ability to taste flavors to begin with. Salt is a flavor enhancer, so it stands to reason that salt is the easiest way to equalize the dining experience. Second, greens or salad are properly eaten seasoned. Now, if I can quote Emeril, "I don't know about you, but where I come from the greens don't come seasoned." And, neither do salads at most restaurants (including "fine dining")!!!! The S&P, in my humble opinion, should be on the table, or brought with the soup course and then removed before dessert.

                  Better luck next time, and happy eating!