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Jan 21, 2012 02:53 PM

Ai Fiori at the Setai

We have been invited to have dinner at Ai Fiori in a few weeks. Has anyone been there, and if so a few pointers on what to order would be helpful.

Ai Fiori
400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

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    1. re: dlgc

      I had a wonderful dinner at Ai Fiori about a year ago. I just checked their current menu, and most of the dishes I had have changed. The one dish that I did have that remains on the menu was the lobster for the main course. It was lovely.

      1. re: dlgc

        I had a good dinner here about 2 months ago.

        The standout was the black trofie with scallops and seppie. My partner also loved his pasta course--the agnolotti. But this being a Michael Whtie restaurant, I would guess that all the pastas are sublime.

        I thought the lobster salad primi was rather boring and not at all on the level of Marea's lobster/burrata dish. The much-talked about lamb en crepinette was a bit rich for my taste; next time I might try the guinea hen for the main course.

        All in all, I liked the restaurant.

        Ai Fiori
        400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

        1. re: dlgc

          I'm not sure what's currently on the menu, but here are some dishes that I liked over the past year:

          - Lobster veloute - lobster chunks, shaved chestnuts, black truffle
          - White asparagus soup with mushroom foam
          - Agnolotti - braised veal, butternut squash ragu, and shaved black truffle
          - Tortelli - ricotta mascarpone ravioli, boschetto cheese, red wine glaze
          - Seared filet beef with pommes dauphine, saffron onion, sauce bordelaise
          - Mediterranean style Cornish hen with tomatoes, braised fennel, lemon thyme jus
          - Uovo - slow poached egg, lobster knuckles, crispy veal sweetbreads, and nuage layon
          - Semolina saffron gnocchetti with blue crab and sea urchin
          - Pan roasted cod with littleneck clams and watercress pesto
          - Olive oil cake with ricotta, rhubarb, and chamomile gelato
          - Apple tart with vanilla ice cream
          - Dark chocolate cremeux with salted caramel and stracciatella gelato

          1. re: dlgc

            I must have missed your first post.

            I had two fantastic dinners there in September (or perhaps the first one was in August). The first dinner was perhaps my best meal in New York, the second perhaps just a hair less great, but I had absolutely outstanding cocktails before the meal. The wines I've had at Ai Fiori were as good as the food.

            Both dinners were in groups of 4, and we tried each other's dishes.

            From the menu on the website, I can recommend:

            lobster soup, périgord black truffles, chervil - just unbelievably good, not sure what else to say.

            Trofie Nero
            ligurian crustacean ragu, seppia, scallops, spiced mollica

            ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere cheese, red wine glaze

            riso acquarello, duck confit, hen of the woods mushrooms

            braised veal parcels, butternut squash, black truffle sugo

            wild mushroom ragu, brown butter fonduta, sage

            saffron broth, langoustine, scallops, bouchot mussels, rouille - this was outstanding, a revelation. I believe it had a bit of pernod or some other kind of anise seed essence in it, so it was a somewhat idiosyncratic bouillabaisse, and also the best I've ever had.

            I believe these are the dinner dishes that are either the same as or recognizably similar to what we had, but if I were going to Ai Fiori now, I'd also be interested in some of the other dishes, such as:

            cauliflower soup, currants, grasso di agnello, anchovy

            foie gras au naturel, bosc pear, almond zabaglione, toasted brioche

            crispy sweetbreads, pomme purée, truffle vinaigrette, pancetta

            Mare e Monte
            diver scallops, celery root, black truffles, bone marrow, thyme

            duck, foie gras, chestnut, radicchio, juniper

            prime dry aged strip loin, chanterelles, smoked potato, green leek, bordelaise

            The desserts also sound wonderful to me.

            I would generally say, aside from the fact that I highly recommend the velutata and the bouillabaisse, order what sounds good to you and it probably will be very good, and also, get a cocktail or two and some wine, if you're OK with drinking that much. It's all really good.

            I understand the Chef de Cuisine has changed since I was last there, though, so after you eat there, please report back and let us know if their previous level of excellence has been maintained. I hope so, because in two meals (or really, after the first), it became my new favorite restaurant in New York.

            Ai Fiori
            400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

            1. re: Pan

              I have had a few of their dishes at the NY Magazine sponsored food expo. Everything was delicious. But after reading the more extensive list of what they have, I must get to Al Fiori ASAP. Sounds yummy

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                I went there for dinner again yesterday as part of a party of 4. I didn't think everything was perfect and revelatory, as I did my first time (this was my third), but it is a really, really good restaurant. I'll post more details later.

                1. re: Pan

                  Thank you so much for all of your help. Waiting to read the details of your last visit.

                  1. re: dlgc

                    Had lunch there at the begining of Restaurant Week, service and food just fine. couldn't expect more for a $24 lunch.

                    1. re: dlgc

                      Sorry for getting behind on my posting. I'll try to reconstruct what I can.

                      We started with 1 cocktail apiece:

                      Two of:

                      Fi o r i d ’Arancio
                      old forester bourbon, ramazzotti amaro, madeira, orange bitters, vanilla

                      One of:

                      The Baedeker
                      hayman’s old tom gin, root liqueur, ginger, lime

                      And one other cocktail I'm not seeing on their current online bar menu, which included egg white and citrus, I think.

                      I love the cocktail with bourbon, and it impressed and pleased everyone. The Baedeker is also very good. The other cocktail that I can't remember exactly was unsweet and well-balanced, completely unobjectionable, but not as memorable to me, as a matter of taste.

                      Two of us got these:

                      Animelle 24
                      crispy sweetbreads, pomme purée, truffle vinaigrette, pancetta

                      As I recall, the pureed potatoes were so creamy, they seemed more like coulis of thickened cream. The pancetta dotted the dish in small pieces. It was great, one of the best sweetbread preparations I've had.

                      I believe I remember correctly that my girlfriend got this :

                      Insalata di Astice 24
                      nova scotia lobster salad, shaved celery, apple

                      Again, if my memory is correct, it was made with perfectly fresh lobster and had small pieces of apple that created only a subtle sweetness. I'm trying to remember what kind of apples were in the salad; I believe they were granny smith, ergo rather tart. Sorry for not remembering too clearly, but it was really good.

                      I believe one diner got the Vellutata, which is a great dish and seems in my experience so far to be one of the best things on the menu.

                      I got these for my next course:

                      Agnolotti 24/36
                      braised veal parcels, butternut squash, black truffle sugo

                      They were as good as the last time - delicious, moist shredded veal with a wonderful sauce.

                      I think my girlfriend got this:

                      Corzetti 23/34
                      wild mushroom ragu, brown butter fonduta, sage

                      I don't remember it being quite as mushroomy as the first time, but it was still really good, and I have no problem with things being buttery, as long as the butter is excellent and that's not the only taste.

                      I think this was the other pasta that was ordered:

                      Tortelli 21/32
                      ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere cheese, red wine glaze

                      As I recall, there are also crispy bits of fried onions or shallots on top, and this is approximately as good as the veal agnolotti - really delicious.

                      One of us didn't order her own pasta, but everyone tried everything.

                      Two of us had this for our secondo:

                      Anatra 37
                      duck, foie gras, chestnut, radicchio, juniper

                      The foie gras was really integrated into the sauce, so I couldn't taste it separately but it made the sauce rich. The duck was very high quality. It could have been cooked a little more for my taste, but I was fine with having it the way the chef likes it. The chestnuts are a wonderful ingredient

                      Overall, the duck dish is quite good but didn't strike me as equally memorable, compared to dishes like the Vellutata, the Bouillabaisse, the Veal Agnolotti, and the Ricotta and Mascarpone Tortelli.

                      I'm pretty sure I remember someone got the Bouillabaisse, and was really pleased with it.

                      For the life of me, I can't remember whether someone else ordered another secondo - I want to say someone ordered the pork, but I really don't remember any boudin noir, which is in the description in their online menu.

                      I think we shared a bottle of this wine:

                      Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Chante Cigale 2010 92

                      The price seems about as I remember (I was thinking $90). If it's the wine I remember, it was somewhat tannic and rather dry with a long finish, and cut through the rich food very well.

                      For dessert, I recall these:

                      Panna Cotta 13
                      balsamic crema, blood orange, marcona almond, lemon sorbetto

                      Excellent panna cotta, nice tart sorbetto, really excellent flavors.

                      Baba al Rhum 13
                      tropical fruit, passion fruit coulis, crema di coco

                      I love any dessert with passion fruit, and this did not disappoint.

                      Tar taletta 14
                      dark chocolate, red grape, caramelized sherry, walnut gelato

                      This was good except that, if I remember correctly, the gelato really tasted like walnut peel, rather than walnuts. It was pretty strange. Otherwise, excellent.

                      I also had a separate dessert of cinnamon gelato, and I think I remember correctly that a bunch of fruits and mascarpone cheese were brought out for me with a candle in them for my birthday.

                      So overall, a great meal, even if not completely perfect.

                      I look forward to visiting Osteria Morini to try another take on Chef White's cuisine.

                      Ai Fiori
                      400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

            2. My daughter and I ate there when I was in town in November. Everything we had was quite good. The standout dishes were a lobster bisque, angoloti with a mixed filling (maybe poultry) that included a bit a fois gras, and a lamb chop with fois gras and caul fat that was just out of this world good. As good a piece of lamb as I've ever put in my mouth. I have no idea why this restaurant doesn't get more attention. Our meal was quite memorable.

              Ai Fiori
              400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

              2 Replies
              1. re: Mike C. Miller

                I think the agnolotti you had were the same ones I've had, stuffed with shredded veal, but I could be wrong.

                The bisque - do you mean the Vellutata? That's a perfect dish, in my opinion, probably one of the best I've ever had in New York.

                1. re: Pan

                  It could have been a vellutata.

                  I wasn't sure about the filling on the agnolotti since it was my daughter's dish. I remember it having a touch of fois gras as she's not a big liver eater and as concerned she might not enjoy the dish as a result. (She very much enjoyed it. The fois gras really just gave the stuffing a richer taste and mouth fel.). I thought it might have been pigeon or squab, but it could well have been veal. Frankly, I was lucky to get one bite!!