We come and go from New York City and in our nomadic lifestyle I have become secure with the idea that some things don't change. We returned to 'ino for lunch today. We began with the truffled egg toast. We always begin with the truffled egg toast. The truffled egg toast is always great. Is it great for everyone, I am not sure, but for me it works out that it is delicious. Egg yolks mix with melted cheese and truffle oil held in place by the hollowed out toast and surrounded by average sliced asparagus. The asparagus is always just average, yet when it is swimming in egg yolk, cheese and truffle oil it becomes a star. We also had an assortment of panini, but that changes with our mood and the menu, the egg toast is the staple.(edited to note that my mother in law noticed and commented that the egg picture is out of focus. Unfortunately do to the small space of ino and my large hunger I quickly snapped a few shots to remember the occasion. Pardon the lack of focus. As it turns out, being corrected is another thing which does not change.)
After lunch we went to visit Bonnie Slotnick and her collection of used cookbooks. Once again, as is always the case, we found some of her hidden treasures and she said she would keep her eyes out for other books we are looking for.
Once we were done book diving I was hungry again. This happens often, just not always. We decided to take the edge off at Mary's Fish Camp . I needed a lobster roll and Aki went for fried clams. The lobster roll was good, the clams crispy but a bit overcooked (perhaps that is because they were cooked on the bottom of the fryer with baskets of potatoes on top, just a thought.) and the shoestring fries were a disaster. Potato strings are always a disaster, not just a Fish Camp thing. These suffered from being grey and soggy. No sweat though, the lobster roll was good and with a good view of the kitchen from the counter, I was expecting the funky fries.
We concluded our day at Hearth . We were looking forward to seeing an old friend Marco Canora and relaxing in the comforts of this East Village culinary touchstone. I should have called ahead to see if Marco was going to be there. As it turns out, he gets Monday nights off. When the chef is not in the house, the food, service and general restaurant suffer. I hold Marco and his work to a high standard. We have worked together and he knows that about me. I had the foie gras torchon which was a grey and oxidized end cut usually reserved for the bin, but tonight I got it. (I did not comment or send it back to the kitchen. We were entertaining very special guests and felt that to do so would be to risk disrupting the occasion). The other signs of the the chef taking some time off were over and under seasoned dishes and desserts which never came. The flavors were there, they just weren't executed to the best of their ability. Sure, mistakes happen and there are off nights. The server was very apologetic about the forgotten sweet. Yet, it is still my contention that when the chef (any chef, any restaurant) is not in the house, slippage appears to occur much more often. It takes the combination of two strong managers, one in the front and one in the back, to make a restaurant really come alive. It will still be good with half of the equation but never as good as when you have that driving passion at both ends of the operation.
These are my findings, for better or worse. Realize that some things don't change and figure out how to use that knowlege to your best advantage.