Sunday, May 20, 2007
Andy, my fabulous husband, and I finished up Season 1 of "Top Chef" repeats (We of course have already seen both seasons and are anxiously awaiting Season 3 - June 13th!!) and were definitely in the mood for some good food. Luckily, we'd made plans to FINALLY try Island with some friends.
Island opened about 6 weeks ago and the kitchen is headed up by ex-Top Chef wannabe Josie Smith-Malave. After first reading about the restaurant in TONY Andy and I walked over (it's only 2 blocks away from our apartment) on a Friday afternoon and walked in, wowed by the grand, spacious and open design - poured concrete floors, hanging white fabric and white islandy chairs. Fancy. Islandy. Anyway, they told us they weren't open. Dern. We'd have to wait for another time.
So we waited and waited and finally made plans to dine here. We hoped that any growing pains the new restaurant might have experienced had been ironed out by this time. I searched everywhere trying to find some kind of online menu for the place, or even a real review, and could not. It would be up to us.
We met our friends and walked in. The maitre d' asked where we'd like to sit and we told him it was our first time there, so we were in his hands. (You know, so we could be wooed and wowed so we'd be return customers.) Hmph. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, between the bar and the kitchen/bathroom area. We didn't see that guy again. Thanks a lot, guy.
The menu was confusing. Now, I'm no Einstein of gourmet eateries, but I'm no dummy either. The entrees are listed on the left side of the one page menu, while the "small plates" are listed on the right. And one category of small plates are "nibbles," so we all came to the conclusion that those must be the "smaller" or "smallest" plates. It was all kind of backwards from there. Not to mention, the dishes are just all over the place!
The restaurant is supposed to be Mediterranean yet listed small plates like steak tartare, fries and "Miami" pulled pork sliders. Both of these were ordered, as were salmon tartare and tuna sashimi. The steak tartare was garlicky and good, but Andy and I couldn't taste the truffle oil that supposedly (per the menu) came on the dish. The salmon tartare was fresh and refreshing, with a citrus creme fraiche type of topping. The tuna sashimi was also good, tasting of soy and a range of textures as it was served as chopped tuna atop thinly sliced tuna. Tarshimi anyone? So, all the raw items were yummy, but our friends weren't impressed by the sliders.
The entrees menu was way more limited than the small plates, and felt more restrictive, too. Pizzas, steak or lobster and pasta among choices. Nothing too appealing, to be honest.
Andy and I shared the Lobster Orzutto (something like that) which was lobster and orzo risotto... and $30. A bit pricey for us, but since we shared it it was okay. The dish itself was a lobster tail on top of orzo risotto... basic. Not great, but it was fine. Our friends had the chorizo and carmelized onion pizza. Again, nothing too impressive.
When I was trying to find a review or menu listing for Island, online and in print, all I was able to find was TONY touting that Island "is home to the only four-head Cimbali espresso machine in the U.S." So, we're getting ready to order dessert and I ask the waiter, "so I hear you have the only four-head Cimbali espresso machine in the country. What does that mean?" The waiter first didn't understand me (slurred wine-language? dunno) and so I repeated myself, to which he replied, "uh, I don't know about that... let me go see..." Finally he returned, took our dessert order and informed me that the espresso making person wasn't there, but if I just wanted a cappuccino he could make it.
The dessert was okay, A & I had a panna cotta (and found the truffle oil that was supposed to be on our steak tartare! Quite good, actually.) and Friend C & Friend J shared the chocolate cake with grilled banana and felt the banana was the high point of the dish.
After trying to figure out how to handle the check (at least three items were listed on the check at a different price, though not much different, from the menu listing), we split it down the middle. Our waiter seemed confused when we asked him to do this, stood still and looked at the cards for a minute, went away and finally returned, telling us he made a mistake and put $10 more on one card than the other. Now, J was a waiter, and Andy was certainly a waiter in everything from NYC diners to fancy celeb-attracting restaurants, and we ALL know how easy it is to get the manager to reverse the charge and fix that shit. But no. It was trashy, and gross. And embarrassing.
The service was nothing special. There was no hovering (thank goodness) but there was also something lax about the whole thing. Andy feels it's the whole European-cool thing (don't worry, folks, he's European, he can say that) that makes the waitstaff work extra hard to not impress. Seriously, though, my girlfriend and I were both still eating our food, had food on our plates and were clearly not done when another guy tried to take our food away. What it comes down to is this (a tidbit of info from the postcard served with the check): There's a DJ there on the weekends. it's a damn club! It all made sense now - that's how it's going to survive Astoria, not because of good food or service, but because it's going to fill up with stupid club people who will pay $10-$12 a drink (hey, if you can afford it, god bless ya, but come on!). When faced with the CLUB realization, our appreciation of the place dropped from 0 to -10. Whatever. I just don't like clubs or that culture. Unfortunately I live in Astoria and I'm outnumbered.
Andy summed it up as he and I walked home, "I feel ripped off!" We both agreed that we would not return to Island. The food was not worth the price, nor was the service. Just the week before we'd eaten at Gotham Bar & Grill (a real restaurant! Gotham B&G could totally kick Island's ass any day of the week!) and that meal, like a real good meal, made us forget about spending the money, not to mention, relive the food, decor and service later.
I focus a lot of money, mainly because I don't have much, but I will spend money for good food and good service, and won't think twice about it. And you can have good cheap meals, too, also with exceptional service.
Island offered none of this and was a complete flop. Island, PACK YOUR KNIVES AND GO!!!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007