Perhaps I am jaded, no I am jaded, perhaps the flu still lingers in my stomach, it wants to resurface, perhaps I am in sensory overload, but New York seems underwhelming. I have played dodge the taxi driver and come screeching to a halt before befuddled pedestrians, but what I really have not enjoyed is the mediocre approach to food and dining that I continue to expose myself to. Here it is, the short rather than the long; New York just feels and tastes off. There are colors, flavors and aromas, textures and contrasts but they are just not coming together on the palate.
I do not enjoy complaining, though many think it is my strong suit, so I will just give a few examples from dinnr tonight to really prove my point. We went to the Harrison in hopes of satisfying food at a reasonable price. Go figure, on the way to dinner I get stuck in traffic and then having a misguided idea of where the restaurant is, park twenty blocks away with a smile on my face at having found parking on the street. For future reference, it is better to find the restaurant first and then the parking. In spite of our tardiness, the host was warm and welcoming. We were seated quickly and ordered oysters to take the rest of our breath away after the long hike to the restaurant. These were bright and fresh, accented with a yuzu and jalapeno flavored mignonette sauce. With the first oyster down, we ordered a 2004 Far Niente Chardonnay. We should have simply ordered more platters of oysters and drunk the wine and called the evening complete. Should have.
The menu was tempting and we jumped in. Fried clams with lemon aioli and fried oysters with grits, yellow tail with granny smith apple and crab salad with avocado, sauteed fluke and an order of risotto. Each dish appeared to be what we wanted, yet they were not. The fried clams were clam strips. If you eat fried belly clams you will know what my issue is, there is no comparison between the two and the menu did not stipulate strips in it's description. The crispy oysters were plump and juicy but the grits were just there on the plate, lacking any personality to accompany the oysters. The chilled yellowtail and the crab salad were both beautiful in appearance and flat in flavors. They appeared to have all of the necessary elements except salt to make the dishes sing leaving them flat and strangely hollow. The fluke was pan roasted and tasty, the accompaniments were as undistinguished as an inept one man band. The risotto I absolutely cannot explain. I still cannot figure out how it happened. Crunchy and gluey, rich and watery, it takes hard work to make something this bad. I'm guessing that no one tasted this one before it left the kitchen. We had for dessert the chocolate beignets and the warm chocolate cake. Tasty but without vocal chords. Both dishes were incredibly rich and lacking any acid to balance them out. Again the possibilities were present but unrealized and unexpressed, leaving just a skeleton without the flesh and blood to make it whole. And we still left the restaurant laughing and smiling, willing though perhaps not eager, to walk a cheerful twenty blocks back to our car.
What does this say? I am not sure. The restaurant was hopping, the clientele happy. The service was very goood. From all appearances it was business as usual at a distinctive and successful neighborhood restaurant. And yet when fork lifted food to the palate, the ruse was up. But then again, as we all know, a dining experience is about more than just the food.
Once again, this is not a review, merely one night's experience, for better or for worse.