Dinner at the Lobby - Recommendations?
I know that there are a number of avid fans of the Lobby. We are dining there tonight. Any recommendations as to specific menu items? Should we go for the tasting menu, or a la carte? For $85, the tasting menu looks like a very fair deal. Does everyone at the table have to do the tasting menu, or will they allow some to order tasting and some alc? Thanks.
Gonzo, we very much enjoyed our dinner although we were not completely wowed by it. I will elaborate.
The purpose of the dinner was to reconnect with an old friend. So, the focus was as much on just being in an atmosphere that was conversation-friendly and with leisurely pacing, as much as food quality. In that respect, The Lobby was perfect.
As to the food, all 3 of us did the tasting menu. They did accommodate particular requests that we made, which involved switching up one of the courses, as 1 of us specifically wanted octopus and 2 of us specifically did not (we got a smoked salmon dish instead). I did not take notes (or, heaven-forbid, pictures) so I cannot go into too much detail course-by-course of all of the ingredients (as, I said, the focus was on conversation). All, in all, the food tasted good but was probably a bit mild in flavor and precious in presentation for our tastes -- but that tends to go with the territory of a tasting menu.
For $85, it was a really good deal, especially because rather than 5-courses, plus an amuse bouche, we were served 7 courses (5 savory & 2 sweet), plus a.b. and mignardises, as well as presented with individual, gift-wrapped mini-pumpkin loaves to take home when the bill was delivered. Highlights of the meal, for me, were probably the amuse bouche of cream of porcini mushroom soup topped with grated hazelnuts, and a serving of a diver scallop with a browned butter sauce, some kale, and other stuff (sorry). I have a real sweet tooth and was not particularly taken with either of the 2 sweet courses, perhaps because neither contained any chocolate.
Anyway, the meal really was perfect for our needs, because it was very conducive to eating well, while spending quality time with a friend. For a purely food-centric experience, I'd return to El Ideas, before The Lobby.
Thank you, Masha, for your thoughtful report. I have read many of your reviews and know your extensive dining experience. Given that your original question was regarding tasting menu vs a la carte, I wonder if these distinctions might be a more general topic (tasting menus) rather than specific to the Lobby. What I have experienced regarding tasting menus is that they often are not a good match when I want to have in-depth and serious conversations with my dining companions. There are so many interruptions with multiple small courses and lengthy descriptions of the food that I feel like an audience member to a show, rather than having my own party with the delivery of food and drinks. If we had known your primary goals for your evening, it may have been easier to give guidance. I am glad that your needs were met and you had an overall positive experience. For future tasting menus, as you liked the experience at El Ideas and if you have not been, I'd recommend trying the underground restaurants Sous Rising (BYOB) and Feast & Imbibe, and Elizabeth.
Thanks for your kind words GW. Actually, the food descriptions were minimally intrusive (probably why my descriptions of each course are so sketchy), and there was none of the detailed instructions on how to eat the course that you get with molecular gastronomy. I'll keep your suggestions in mind for future dining.
I highly recommend the tasting menu; the best part about it is they are flexible with what you receive. They have a template for it, but if you see an item or two on the a la carte menu that you find appealing they will do their best to include it. Likewise tell them any foods you dislike and they will not serve them. It is a wonderful experience and definitely one of the best bargains in fine dining.
My two favorite dishes right now there would be the octopus and the whole roasted chicken; if you do the tasting menu you might want to request these be included if possible. I also enjoy their wines, so you may want to also do the wine pairing. I am not positive if some can do the tasting menu and some a la carte, but in general they are very friendly/customer service oriented so it is quite possible they would accommodate such a request.
I also recommend asking for a table near the windows; tables near the other end of the restaurant can be a bit noisy when hotel guests wander by, but the tables near the windows are much quieter, more intimate and enjoyable IMHO.
Have a wonderful dinner!