01 February 2009

Icon, 130 E. 39th St (at Lex, in the W Hotel)

The recent state of economic affairs has been hitting all of us hard, fellow fork readers. I commiserate completely with you as we've been forced to end our old ways of consuming madeiras and ports after ever meal, end our favorite habits of lobster tail add-ons to our mains, and on top of that, instead of drinking some Perrier and eating some organic delicacies off the Whole Foods buffet, finding ourselves scrambling for change to buy a Grey's Papaya. Therefore, when I do go out, I've been really trying to ensure that the places I do frequent are the best "bang for your buck" and really are tasty and a great value.

This past week has been Restaurant Week in New York, and for those of you not in the know, Restaurant week is where selected participating restaurants around the city offer a prix fine menu for a fixed cost that's (usually) less than the cost of buying off the actual menu. I asked my foodie coworker Brian for a recommendation off the list, as he frequents Brasserie 8 1/2 and Jean-George's on a near weekly basis, and while he approved my choice of Icon, he said he would have gone elsewhere. (Bad omen #1.)

I make a reservation for 730, and we rock up about 740. I happen to notice while I was standing outside that the menu had changed from what I viewed online (bad omen #2). We went inside, and the restaurant was nearly empty (bad omen #3). Chan states, "I'm glad you made the reservation." The waitstaff is duly unimpressed.

We sit down, and it turns out they changed their menu to a four course menu for each person, pick any dishes you want. Here's what we chose:
  • big eye tuna – strawberry, cucumber, mojito
  • charantaise melon – goat cheese, fennel, acacia honey, prosciutto, arugula, sherry #9
  • scottish salmon – sunchoke, asparagus tips, lobster vanilla sauce
  • crispy duck confit – basil mustard, raisin paper, micro greens, sherry #9, lavender smoke
  • poached filet of beef – spinach fondue, pomme soufflĂ©, red wine shallot sauce
  • pork belly – celery root, english stout
  • New Zealand cockles – chorizo, purple potato, celery
  • blueberries – white chocolate, kaffir lime, tobacco and mint

I mean, take a look at this menu? How could we have gone wrong? Tuna mojito? Sherry #9? Lavender smoke? Purple potato? Tobacco? Seriously, this is a culinary and gastro-intestinal delight. Right?


One thing that I didn't realize, or rather had the misconception was when I looked at the (wrong) menu, it seemed like most other restaurant week menus - one appetizer, one main, and a dessert. Here, it was more of a tasting course....where as I'm sure you can tell, each plate is one or two bites.

As Dave put it, most of these dishes are comparable to what you'd see on the Food Network. So you think you'd be getting something really good...something really exotic, however it really wasn't all that great.

Take the big eye tuna with strawberry, cucumber & mojito. The dish was actually some raw tuna, sliced strawberry, pieces of cucumber and mojito foam. When combined together was a nice fusion of flavor, however more than one bite and I became slightly underwhelmed.

The filet would have been fine, except they didn't ask us what temperature we wanted it. The cockles were fishy and strange. The lavender smoke did nothing for the duck confit. The salmon was fishy. The melon was overpowered by the goat cheese. The only dish that qualified into the "just alright" category was the pork belly. But seriously, it's pork belly, and I'm not quite sure how it wouldn't be fine. How does one mess up pork fat with a little meat? It's going to be delicious no matter what. (And it was.)

One thing that did win at this dinner was the presentation. The way and order the dishes were brought out was very stylish, and the plates were beautifully presented and arranged.

But this by no means compensated for the ambiance, which wasn't all that great, and to be honest, I've partied at W Hotels before, and this one just felt downright trashy. Like the type where you wouldn't want them to turn up the lights at all because it would just look tacky and unfinished. (Kind of gave me the same impression as my old apartment in Bedstuy, if you know what I'm talking about.) Hand in hand with this, it felt wannabe and like they were trying to be super elite, but were not at all in the least. In addition, the timing was always off with our waiter and busboy. They asked us for drinks 3x, made a huge deal taking our plates away when it was obvious there was still food on them and we were unfinished, asking if we'd like coffee after we had received dessert, and then were nowhere to be found when we needed the check.

By the time we left, the dining room was full and it seemed like people were enjoying themselves. Honest to God, my only thought was that I hope that if they're tourists, they don't get the impression that this is what real New York food is.

Mediocre food? Check. Ill-trained waitstaff? Check. Wannabe vibe? Check. Trying way to hard? Check. Icon gets one fork:

1 comment:

geowingo said...

ok, no icon for us for Easter...very funny...thanks, Kato

love, dad

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