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Oct 25, 2009 06:28 AM

Has anyone tried the Vanderbilt yet?

Curious how their opening weekend went. Looking forward to going myself, but interested in first impressions.

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    1. Surprised nobody has answered this yet. Handsome Hubby and I went there on Halloween night. Overall: We were not impressed with the food, despite being very ready to like it. And the portions were quite small for the price. I would give it one more try in a few months to see if it improved, but I'd rather go to Beast across the street any day.

      First impression: it's very slick, very Manhattan-y. An attractive space but it definitely gets loud. We arrived at 10 and had to wait 10 min for a table. There was plenty of comfy seating in the bar area, but we couldn't transfer our drink cheque to our table (a personal annoyance of mine). The cocktail list was interesting and the vodka-black cherry drink I had was yummy.

      The food:
      Duck rillettes--ok but nothing special; it really lacked the strong duckiness that you want. Also it came with only three stingy little pieces of soft bread. I asked for more and got crispy garlic bread, which didn't really go with the dish. The accompanying fig compote was good, though.
      Fall salad of pumpkin, hazelnuts, faro and some kind of green with a poached egg--delicious. I expected all the dishes to be of this standard. A great balance of flavours, textures and visuals. Inspired.
      "Spicy" blood sausage--disappointing. Not spicy and also not full of mouth-flavour and umami feel that you expect from this dish.
      Seared octopus--unimpressive. 4 tiny pieces of rather fishy octopus hiding in a lot of rather dull cranberry beans with oil & garlic.
      Hanger steak--so-so. HH found the meat too soft and edging towards a filet mignon, with not enough char. The (two) home fries with it were excellent.

      Service: kind of woeful. We waited forlornly at our table for about 20min before anyone took notice of us (in a half empty and not large table area). Another table was scanning even more forlornly. Then after we ordered the food, it came far too quickly and all one on top of the other in an awkward way. But I'll give them a pass for being 8 days old.

      Interested to hear what other Hounders think.

      7 Replies
      1. re: chowbie

        went there last Monday night...and also wasn't all that impressed. I do like the space and i feel that the wait staff should of told us something about the place, menu, chef's idea of what he's trying to do. The portions are small, to go with the it more of a small plates restaurant??...I wish I knew before I ordered .....also no bread on the tables, very bare. For the food, started with mixed olives, (no big deal, had better), the a serrano croquette, not good, oily and very small, we also had brussel sprouts, not spicy at all (like described)- but Asian with sesame seeds??....main course I had hanger (med-rare) cooked right, but small, (I rather pay more and give me a little more), and we also had the pork, tasty but portion size. We passed on dessert, I know they just opened, and will give it one more try, I just wish the menu itself was a bit larger to pick from. (I found it very limited)...I want to like it.

        1. re: wonka

          without having much time to post a thorough report, i will say that i was also very disappointed. i hit this place up on saturday night and it was a total zoo: no intimacy, no charm, no service. ultimately we pushed through a throng of what appeared to be imports from tribeca? to seat ourselves. when service finally came it was automatonic. the doll-sized portions were comprised of food that was not-all-that. brussel sprouts were reminiscent of chinese lemon chicken. the few lamb ribs that came on our plate were drowned in a cloyingly sweet sauce. the mussels, however, were excellent, and made me less irritated by the whole experience.
          i intend to give this place another shot, as it's in the neighborhood, and perhaps deserves one, but conceptually, i am not sure what's going on. if it's a gastropub why is it the seize of tgi friday's and why is it so precious? more to say on the menu itself later.

        2. re: chowbie

          This place is so uninspiring that I have had a hard time motivating myself to even write anything about it, but here is a part of the story:

          We dined here on Halloween night, too, but earlier in the evening. Our experience was very similar to yours, except the service was a bit better earlier in the evening. It was very, very impersonal, though. Also, I found even the salad very lacklustre. It looked good on paper - all those ingredients on their own usually are very tasty to me- but was oddly tasteless in reality. Maybe the tasteless egg made everything else tasteless, too. And rubbery. This was the first time in ages that I did not finish a salad.

          The bacalao mixed in with buttered mashed potato = yikes! I used to eat a lot of bacalao (in Brooklyn) after it became a 'hip" (haha) food and everybody was offering it. The Bacalao at the Vanderbilt was the worst example of this peasant food that I have ever tasted. This one had a very unpleasant kind of a fishy taste.

          Altogether we had six dishes, and none of them made us think we would ever come back.

          Also, a patron at the next table (way too close to each other) got his pork partly rare. oops.

          I know it is not so, but somehow it feels insulting that Saul Bolton dumps a second rate restaurant like this in Prospect Heights, as if he thinks there are no good palates residing here. I know, I know, it is not about that, he just happened to find a location here, but still - what a letdown. And what a waste of a nice restaurant space on Vanderbilt Avenue. I truly hope that these are just kinks that need to be worked out. Maybe, maybe we will give it another try in a few months... although, I almost feel like, why should I bother, since there are better restaurants close by. James, for instance, where the chef can seriously cook and does not underestimate his patrons.

          1. re: FoodWine

            "This place is so uninspiring that I have had a hard time motivating myself to even write anything about it..."

            Yep, and that's why I hadnt yet even bothered. Okay, for what it's worth as reference, here's my rundown & personal ratings:

            Malbec @$8/glass -- okay, whereas Deloach Pinot Noir @$5/glass -- better. Neither is top notch; both are more than up to the food.
            Peanuts - unfortunately, ehh. Since Redhead, my standards are much higher.
            Shishito Peppers - at $6 a plate, my new favorite bar food. A winner
            Golden Pickled Eggs - another good choice, especially at $4
            Asst. Pickles - ehh. $6
            Fresh and Pickled Fennel - I liked this but not worth the $9
            Duck Rillets - a failure. Not just at $10, but in general. I think the Top Chef version probably beat it and she was kicked off for making it
            Chopped Liver - barely adequate and, at $9, not worth the effort. Go to Terroir
            Merguez Sausage - something worth the $10. Nice dish.
            Grilled Octopus - failure #2. Again, not just at $11, but in general. I cant figure out how they got this wrong.
            Serrano Ham Croquets - tasty but with very little ham inside. Explains the $8 price but ehh
            Smoky Fried Wings - they can make good chicken wings but $12 for 6 or 7 pieces (not full wings) is beatable in value and taste in many places
            Spicy Blood Sausage - not spicy, basically 4-5 cut pieces (totaling maybe a half of a not thick sausage). Tasty but not worth the $10
            Artisinal Cheese - at $12, do better. Very poor.

            Four of us paid approx $50pp for this, including over $50 in glasses of wine and tax and tip, so it's certainly not the overall cost that's the issue. But, for $100/couple, I'll stick to the many other places that do better.

            1. re: Steve R

              Steve R, between you and me, we sampled quite a large part of the menu at Vanderbilt. It is pretty shocking that we did not find menu things we liked.

              Here is what we had (including the bad bacalao & lackluster salad):

              - Mixed olives (lemon, thyme - $4) I love olives but these just fine.

              - Brussel sprouts (sirachia, lime, honey - $4) (the only dish that actually was good. But would not, on its own, bring us back).

              - Warm Fall Salad (Anson Mills faro, pumpkin squash, hazelnuts, goat cheese, poached egg - $12!!!) (I described this one in the previous post). Now, when this plate was served, I paused: because this plate was serioysly over priced for its size. The portion was very small (it was a salad, mostly healthy greens, for crying out loud!). The price seemed obnoxious. $6 would have been proper. I had really felt for a good salad and on paper it looked delicious. But, at the end it did not matter that it was so tiny, because, as I mentioned before, in dismay of its rubbery textures and an odd nothingness in taste, I pushed it away.

              - Duck Rillets (mission fig jam - $9) Like you, I did not think much of this dish. Blah! I did not hate this, but it was pretty boring. Like liver pate you can buy in stores. (I like duck Rillets, I especially loved one that I had at Bouchon in Yountville, which looked like this one, but tasted and felt much better.) I liked the oven crisped little breads here, and the fig jam at first seemed good, but after the second bite the jam was just cloyingly sweet.

              - "Brandade du Morue" (roasted peppers, olives, parsley - $10) Essentially a bacalao / mashed potato blend. As I described earlier, it was quite unpleasant (fishy in a bad way). The
              roasted bread that came with it, was so drowned in (not so tasty) oil, that neither one of us could eat them.
              -Believe me, we wanted to. The Vanderbilt is so cheap that they do not give you any bread or other little bites on the table. We had bought a bottle of wine and needed something to eat with it.

              - Spanish Mackerel $14. Merely passable and a bit dry, which, for this fish, is pretty stunning. My husband loves mackerel and usually gulps it up, but this one he did not finish. We see it is not on the menu anymore, mabe for good reason.

              Also, noted by the annoyed pescaterian/vegetarian - why is this item under the grouping “vegetables”: “Polenta Soup confit duck gizzard, duck cracklings $9”

              The drink list looked intriguing and the beer list looked good, but the wine “list” was abysmal. And again, I cannot help it, I find it insulting that the Bolton team does not want to invest in Prospect
              Heights more than that, as if he did not think that there are any oenophiles in Prospect Heights. I do not drink beer and I do not drink drinks. I drink wine. Good wine, if I can help it.

              After all the pre-hyping on web sites and in magazines, we walked out shaking our heads, thinking: “Much ado about nothing” … or: “Empreror’s new clothes” (albeit, peasant clothes, but still…). We regretted not going to James, or at least to Aliseo, or that we had not stayed home. For a moment there, we actually considered going to James, just to get some pleasant tastes on our palates, but instead walked home and brushed our teeth.

              I want to like this place! I frustrated that I cannot! I hope I will, one day.

              1. re: FoodWine

                the emphasis on mixed drinks and beer over wine is the current style seemingly in these small plates supposedly more budget oriented restaurants. Presumably it is cheaper for the restaurant and a bigger money maker. And for the younger crowd it seems like more fun. Really by the time a table orders 2 craft beers per person or a few girly drinks it will have radically overspent the cost of a decent bottle of wine.

                1. re: FoodWine

                  One really annoying thing about Chowhound: I immediately tried to edit all the annoying typos in this (previous) post of mine, but the edits did not "stick", no matter how much I tried.

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