L’Impero – NYC

April 13, 2007

45 Tudor City Place, New York

http://www.limpero.com limp-3.jpg

On April 10, 2007, Linda and I dined at L’Impero. We were seated promptly; we each ordered a prosecco and were poured generous glasses. The menu offered à la carte, a seven course tasting menu at $110 or, our choice, a four course prix fixe menu at $65 which gave one a choice of a starter, a pasta, a main course and a dessert from the à la carte selections. We ordered a bottle of the 2000 Doccio a Matteo Chianti Classico Riserva, which was very good. Linda started with the crispy sweetbread fricassee. It was inexplicably dominated by hot pepper flakes. Not enjoyable. She is smiling in the photo with this dish, but she hasn’t tasted it yet.



I started with the yellowfin tuna with chopped cucumber, tomato and a sea urchin emulsion. The tuna was top quality; even the chopped tomatoes had surprising flavor for April in NY. The dabs of sea urchin were too small and diluted to add anything beyond plate décor, but the dish already had enough ingredients. Very good. 


Linda then had the duck and foie gras agnolotti with moscato passito di Sardegna reduction. The true flavors of the duck and foie gras came through, but the agnolotti were light. The sweet wine sauce went well with the rich meat and was not cloying. Very good. 

My pasta was the house-made farfalle “Integrale” with Manila clams, fava beans, chanterelles, shad roe bottarga and pancetta. There were too many disparate ingredients all jumbled up resulting in a tolerable sauce. Okay. 


limp-5.jpgLinda then had the capretto (baby goat) with artichoke, speck and potato “groestie.” There was no characteristic flavor to the capretto and the dish was over-salted. Disappointing. 



I had the slow-roasted lamb with canelli beans etc. This was just an ordinary lamb dish. Okay. 


For dessert Linda had the “olive oil cake with olive oil gelato.” There was no olive oil favor, just a light lemony taste to the cake. Boring. 

limp-6.jpgI had the banana tartine with chocolate sorbet and sesame nougat. Okay. 

There was a tray of little mignardises. 


So why did we go to such a mediocre restaurant when there are so many other interesting choices in NYC? I was inspired by a blog post from the normally exigent Augieland, but he had obviously received special treatment.

But L’Impero is one of Zagats fifty best in NYC with a 26 food rating. The New York Times gave it *** (excellent) a few years ago. The chef, Scott Conant, is highly regarded; he is cited as the leader of modern cuisine with Italian roots. We thought we should try it. 

Many of the diners seemed to be international businessmen or people connected to the nearby United Nations, but the crowd included all types and varieties. The noise level is incredible; Linda and I couldn’t hear each other talking normally, but we could hear the conversations at the tables jammed next to ours as they were talking loudly to be heard. Our food came quickly; the service was somewhat abrupt. I’m sure they wanted our table back. The décor is hung fabrics, which do not succeed in dampening the noise, but do create a closed in ambience. limp-1.jpgIn both rooms the space between the tables against the wall on one side and the banquettes on the other side has been filled in with more tables, creating a jammed in feeling and impeding service. This is pure greed. My annoyance was capped off by the fund raising gimmick attached to the bill.  

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