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Ai Fiori at the Setai

d
dlgc Jan 21, 2012 02:53 PM

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.

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

  1. m
    Mike C. Miller Mar 3, 2012 12:24 AM

    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.

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mike C. Miller
      p
      Pan Mar 3, 2012 01:20 AM

      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
        m
        Mike C. Miller Mar 3, 2012 01:07 PM

        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!!

    2. d
      dlgc Jan 30, 2012 01:16 PM

      No one has eaten here?

      9 Replies
      1. re: dlgc
        ellenost Jan 30, 2012 01:25 PM

        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
          erica Jan 30, 2012 01:30 PM

          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.

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

          1. re: dlgc
            r
            Riverman500 Jan 30, 2012 01:37 PM

            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
              p
              Pan Feb 1, 2012 02:03 AM

              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:

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

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

              Tortelli
              ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere cheese, red wine glaze

              Risotto
              riso acquarello, duck confit, hen of the woods mushrooms

              Agnolotti
              braised veal parcels, butternut squash, black truffle sugo

              Corzetti
              wild mushroom ragu, brown butter fonduta, sage

              Bouillabaisse
              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:

              Cavolfiore
              cauliflower soup, currants, grasso di agnello, anchovy

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

              Animelle
              crispy sweetbreads, pomme purée, truffle vinaigrette, pancetta

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

              Anatra
              duck, foie gras, chestnut, radicchio, juniper

              Tagliata
              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.

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

              1. re: Pan
                f
                foodwhisperer Feb 1, 2012 05:32 AM

                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
                  p
                  Pan Feb 3, 2012 10:53 AM

                  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
                    d
                    dlgc Feb 4, 2012 09:21 AM

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

                    1. re: dlgc
                      m
                      martyl9 Feb 4, 2012 11:01 AM

                      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
                        p
                        Pan Mar 2, 2012 06:32 PM

                        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.

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

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