For the sake of my waistline and my cholesterol levels, it's a rarity for me to eat out twice in one day.
But for the sake of providing reviews to everyone, I'll brave the doctor's lecture.
First up: East Side Social Club, a vintage-style Italian resto in Midtown East for a holiday lunch with colleagues. Vintage, sure, I get what they're going for, but if "vintage" is when you move two tables together and the old, cheap carpeting tears off the floor, it won't be something that gets better with age. Perhaps I'm judging harshly, but on the part of the lunch menu, the food is nothing special- it's on the same level as Little Italy, and for anyone that knows Italian cuisine, it falls on the side of boring. ESSC serves a variety of Italian classics- we found not one, but three meatball-related dishes on the lunch menu- along with salads and plenty of pastas. I'll even give them credit for the very out-of-place veggie burger.
I decided on their mushroom ravioli, which our waitress insisted was made in-house. Much to my disappointment, with my first forkful I knew this was not fresh pasta. Fresh pasta has a certain bite to it, and there was just no way the ravioli was anything but frozen. Am I picky? Possibly, but don't tell me the pasta is made in-house when it likely was not. On a slightly redeeming note, the dish was topped with a generous serving of mushrooms, likely shitakes and creminis, in marsala sauce.
ESSC is managed by the same team that owns the blast-from-the-speakeasy-past bar, Employees Only- and perhaps this skewed my expectations for ESSC. I'd be willing to come back for drinks, which I'm told are excellent, but with a mediocre menu that could easily be found in any generic Italian joint on Mulberry Street, I doubt I'll be dining here again.
East Side Social Club, 230 E. 51st Street, 212-355-9442
Thank my lucky stars I had Dovetail's four course Meatless Monday tasting menu to bring me out of my dining slump. With a Michelin star under its belt, I came in with high expectations for Dovetail, and I'm delighted to report that Dovetail's vegetarian menu was everything I've wanted in a meal and more.
Dovetail appears refined, yet welcoming, with its floor to ceiling windows and drapes, and impeccable service to boot- it's what you'd expect from any fine dining establishment, but what they do for vegetables is a breath of fresh air. Their Meatless Monday tasting menu features a vegetarian/vegan menu (turnip ceviche with quinoa, a vegan offering) along with a vegetable focused menu. (like pumpkin risotto with a bit of lamb sausage on the side) Each course features 2 vegetarian options and a vegan option, even the dessert!
I started with a creamy butternut squash soup, highlighted by cranberries, fresh rosemary, and small pieces of chestnuts- it was sweet and savory, and in other words, delicious. I followed my soup with their version of winter tempura- served with a turnip kimchee and chai-spiced tofu aioli, the curry spiked tempura vegetables were wonderfully warming and deeply flavorful, but not spicy. For my third course, I scored with Dovetail's popular vegan entree, the barbeque parsnip rib- parsnip "ribs" are grilled with Caribbean spices and served with coconut rice and a mix of edamame, daikon, and cilantro. I love any veggie on the grill, and the parsnip was a perfect mix of smoky and spicy, with the right tender interior and a just crispy exterior. Simply amazing. And since no meal is complete without dessert, I'm happy to report that my dairy and egg free chocolate gateau, served with banana sorbet and caramelized bananas, was also as outstanding as my meal- as were the pumpkin cake and the chocolate souffle I sampled from my pals.
Overall, I was fully impressed with Dovetail's unique and wildly delicious flavor combinations. For anyone who doubts how creative one can get with vegetables need only make a Monday night reservation, and prepare to be amazed. A must for vegetarians and vegans looking to treat themselves, or their omnivorous friends!
Dovetail, 103 W. 77th Street, 212-362-3800