Reporting back: Scarpetta, EMP, and Minetta Tavern (long)
First, thanks to everyone for their input. I appreciate it.
We weren't in NY long, but we had some amazing food for the 2.5 days we had.
Scarpetta was my least favorite dining experience however. In retrospect, I wish we had returned to Marea or tried for a dinner reservation at Babbo...
Let me start with the positives: The atmosphere was relaxed, minimal and chic. The service was great. The stromboli bread and polenta appetizer was fantastic! I'd kill for a huge bowl of it right now.
I didn't enjoy the breaded mozarella appetizer, it had no flavor. Also, sharing the polenta between 4 people was a drag. I would have loved my own portion! (Greedy me). My husband loved his short rib agnolotti (sp?) and pancetta wrapped pork loin. I tasted some of his, and it was excellent.
I had two pasta plates instead of a pasta and then entree. I started with the tomato basil spaghetti. While the flavor was excellent, the pasta was overcooked. Not even close to al dente. Since we had waited so long for our pasta plates, I didn't want to send it back and make everyone else uncomfortable eating while I waited for my food. This was probably a mistake, because I would have enjoyed the dish much more if I had done so. This was of course definitely partly my fault.
The duck and foie ravioli was my next course. It was done well, but I didn't love it. I liked it. I love duck and foie gras, but for some reason it just didn't sing for me. Again, not the restaurant's fault- I just didn't love it.
We all shared two desserts- the chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream, and a thyme-apple tart with rum raisin ice cream. The chocolate cake was generic, something you can find at most restaurants (although the ice cream was special) and the apple tart was wonderful! It definitely inspired me to make an apple tart at home using thyme rather than cinnamon.
All in all, it was just OK. I don't think I'd ever return to Scarpetta on future visits. The place is fine, but the only course I will pine for is the polenta and I found the recipe online. I'll be trying to make it at home in the next few days!
The next day for lunch, we arrived at EMP. What can I say? I'll try not to be too obnoxious as I express how outstanding and dreamy everything was. The service was professional, yet warm and friendly. Ellenost was right about the room perhaps being more enjoyable during the day rather than the night. The day we had lunch it was very sunny, and the light in the dining room was lovely. We sat at a corner table overlooking the whole space.
Each course was to die for except for the parsnip. But that isn't EMP's fault, we just don't like parsnip very much.
My favorite courses were: the smoked fish with caviar and roe spread on crispy rye bread and the lavender duck. But honestly, each course was so incredibly flavorful and exciting.
There was not a lot of dialogue or explanation about the menu, as complained about in the NY times a few months ago.
The theatrical component didn't overshadow the food. For example, the grinding of the carrot tartare at the table, the picnic basket with cheese that we assembled ourselves, etc...The food could stand on its own without all of that, so it just ended up being a joyful and fun component to the meal.
Joy is really the word I'd use to describe the whole experience. We didn't want it to end, and it was one of the best meals I've ever had.
I drank more than usual for lunchtime (oops) and I don't regret it. I started with a glass of a French Val de Mer Chablis sparkling wine, continued with two glasses of the California Tyler Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir wine, and ended the meal with a soothing, delicious spiked Apple Cider.
My only gripe: I prefer the butter and bread during my past visits. I missed the goats milk butter and the heartier bread. I didn't love the croissant style bread they had this time.
Minetta Tavern was great as always. This was my fourth time back. The room was buzzy, the food was great. We had a guinea hen pate, split a burger, and shared the new york strip steak, cooked medium. Finished it off with a grand marnier souffle and a piece of coconut cake. The service was friendly and accomodating, and we enjoyed every gluttonous bite.
We were going to have lunch at Babbo today, but unfortunately we had to get back to DC early and I'm writing this on our train ride back. We are eating some of the treats given to us by EMP. :-)
I can't wait for our next trip back.
I was puzzled by the parsnip course. There was already a salsify (which I thought was pretty clever already), and obviously the carrot tartare.
Conceptually maybe they wanted a composed root vegetable dish so as to contrast with the carrot course, which is assembled by the diner. Both are sauced and are served on/with a type of chip (the parsnip chip, and the 7-grain crisp).
Tastewise, I don't know what to make of it.
Nice report. Sorry you didn't enjoy Scarpetta nearly as much as we did. We had the same dishes pretty much including the Agnolotti which may be my favorite dish there.
At Minetta we did exactly the same, shared the burger and the NY strip last time. By now you should have gotten replies on what a disservice you doing by ordering the burger ;)
I'm disappointed to hear that you didn't love Scarpetta. I've been narrowing in on it for our choice for one upscale-ish Italian dinner for our trip into the city this spring. The menu totally appeals, I hear the bread basket is the best in the city, and it doesn't have the loud obnoxious music that Babbo has. But I do want to be wowed by the food wherever we end up. Thanks for reorting.