Insieme, NYC 2

March 7, 2009

Insieme opened a year and a half ago with high hopes for it in the food press. These were borne out when it received a Michelin star for 2009, although its 24 rating in the 2009 Zagats, down from 26, was unimpressive. Linda and I had a very good meal at Insieme last May and were expecting a lot when we returned for a pre-theater dinner on March 4, 2009.

nsaWe were seated in one of the nice booths along the interior side. The noise level had improved with just some quiet background music. I ordered a glass of 2007 Friulano Petrucco which was crisp and refreshing. A little plate of canapés arrived.

The name of the restaurant means “together” in Italian. On our first visit there were two halves of the menu, one traditional Italian and the other modern creations on Italian themes. There was also a “pasta tasting menu,” which we ordered and enjoyed very much. It is still on the menu ($68), but the two halves have been abandoned for a conventional Italian Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni offering. With the financial crisis a no-choice three-course “Cucina Povera” menu at $35 (+$12 with wine pairings) has been added. We decided to order à la carte. We let the waiter chose our red wine from the enormous selection of Italian wines. He chose a 2007 Ada Nada Dolcetto d’Alba, which was just right for the cuisine and a bargain at $50.

The amuse-gueule was a little cup of egg drop soup with chicken and beef stock. It was somewhat boring.

Linda’s first course was
with Black Radish, Asian Pear and Mission Fig Puree

The tuna had been cooked on one side only. The garnishes were appropriate, if not very imaginative. Good.

My first course was
Veal Sweetbreads with Lemon, Capers and Parsley

The sweetbreads were not as crispy on the outside as I would have liked. The lemon seemed more sour than citrusy and the capers were not top quality. In short, it was okay, but not at all prepared at a one-star Michelin level.

Linda’s second course was
with Bacon, Parsnip and Sage

This was an excellent, light dish. The agnolotti were perfectly cooked, the chicken liver was good. The parsnip purée ring and the sage were good companions in the dish.

My main course was
Spaghetti with Guanciale, Tomatoes, Pepperoncini and Smoked Fiore Sardo

I had high hopes for this as the listed ingredients seemed right, but they didn’t come through for me. The tomato base was gooey and acidic, as if made from tomato paste. The pepperoncini were evident, but little guanciale flavor or unctuousness came out. There was too little of the Sardinian Pecorino to taste.

My dessert was
with Kobocha Cake and Espresso Reduction

This was nice. The Japanese pumpkin cake seemed to have been doused in something good.

There was a little plate of biscotti to finish.

It seemed to me that Insieme has given up on its ambitions. The menu was not inspired and the food was just okay for a one-star restaurant. The service was friendly and efficient. Our bill was less than $100 each including tax and tip so we have no complaints, but it is disappointing that what might have been by far the best restaurant in the Theater District isn’t trying so hard any more. Given the general immobilisme at the Michelin guides Insieme can probably coast with its star for a few years. We will keep going as it is a spot one can have a good meal before the theater with friends and be able to talk in a reasonable noise level.

To see our blogpost on Insieme from last May click here.

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