Eighty One, NYC

April 19, 2008

Eighty One is the third in the new series of upscale restaurants on the Upper West Side, the other two recent openings being Telepan and Dovetail. So to check it out Linda and I went to Eighty One for dinner on April 17, 2008.
There was a busy NY ambience in the reception area and the bar. The dining room is alive, but the well planned acoustic panels hanging from the ceiling and the lack of music make it possible to hear easily above the buzz.
We ordered a half-bottle of Veuve Cliquot as our aperitif. It went very well with the cute amuse-gueule, a tiny baked potato with foam and American caviar.  We ordered a bottle of the 2005 Whitcraft Bien Naciedo Pinot Noir to go with the rest of the meal. It was very nice.

Linda’s starter was the New Bedford sea scallop and foie gras ravioli in a foamed sauce with vin jaune from the Jura, topped with chervil. We both agreed that it was superb.  



My starter was white asparagus and leeks topped with mixed fresh herbs and pata negra ham curls. It was very pleasant, but I would have liked more ham and good oil.


Linda’s main course included a very nicely done veal loin, “cheek” and a piece of braised veal with good winter vegetables. 


My main course was three spring lamb chops with braised lamb shoulder, beans, carrots and artichokes with a nice lamb stock.


Linda skipped dessert. I had a ginger panna cotta with a glass of sorbet in a fizzy melon soda. It was very good.


The mignardises were exquisite.


It is hard to know just what to say about Eighty One. The ingredients were good, although I question the need for European sourcing. Our waiter was proud to tell us that the asparagus were from Provence. What is the point? There was a “Label Rouge” chicken on the menu; he confirmed that it was, indeed from France. I buy them every week at the grocery store when I am in France, but they are not better than a good American free-range chicken. Why cook with wine from the Jura? Our excellent waiter, David, was from Roanne, home of Troisgros, but he had not worked there. Perhaps if they had not used such an expensive Iberian ham on my starter, the portion could have been more generous.

The sauces for the meat were light, appropriate and flavorful, but somehow not exciting. Only Linda’s starter, my dessert and the mignardises piqued our palate and, on reflection, made our investment of an evening and $300 seem worthwhile.



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