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Review: A Voce

Posted by gambit50 on April 26, 2008

A Voce, Flatiron District, New York, NY

Another newish, high-end Italian restaurant in Manhattan. I should not even bother, as I do not with every other new place with raves and promises of great Italian cuisine with an upscale twist. There are only a handful (if that) of Italian spots where I would choose to dine in NYC. Also, one of my old mates with a fair opinion was not impressed. Obviously, I went, regardless of all this, mostly because of the gentle prodding given by another who cared to try it. Usually, those suggestions are shot down quickly or slowly but in this case I acquiesced.

Located in the Flatiron District, near Madison Park, the space was pleasing to me. Very open, large windows are the wall between it and the outdoors. High ceilings also help a great deal. They always do, no? The crowd, well, without offending people who should not be offended by a mere statement of fact, I will just say that in a more cramped setting, it would probably be a mark against this establishment. The tables are relatively close, a complaint of many, but the 3-D openness is a huge countermeasure. The décor is not one to wow you but it is fitting. Toned down contemporary, nothing that will seem awkward after a few years. Again, the spaciousness just made it for me. It is not too hard to have a pleasant environment when you are working with this. Do not choose terrible colors, chairs, etc. and you are doing well. A Voce did just that.

The staff was very good, overall. A proper and helpful maitre d’. Servers of all types were fine, unobtrusive yet fulfilled their duties well most of the time. Perhaps they would not be the most helpful for menu help or something along those lines, I cannot say, that is my impression and there was a bit of lag for arriving dishes and refills, on occasion. Only minor occurrences that do not bother me but some people are anal. It is not 5-star service and I did not expect it nor should anyone else at a place of this type.

Moving on to the food, the important item. Pork tenderloin with cannelini beans, chard and cipollini onions agro dolce. This was the best dish. It was great though I must admit I removed the pile of onions from atop. The agro dolce(not a fan)was too strong on both ends and if this were not easily removed without tainting the rest, the pork would have been ruined. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it which surprised me.

The chard had a bit of heat to it which really pushed this ensemble up the scale. The overall composition of flavors was perfectly balanced(alright, I made it so by removing the onions but it is obvious how forgiving I am in this case) and cooked properly. You could say the beans were a bit mushy if you had to. More please, who knew?

Artichoke soup, scallops, etc. were all also very good. NOTE, I did not ever taste one pasta or drink any wine, in case anyone cares to disregard my review for those reasons.

Desserts, well, not good. Typical donut holes with pistachio crème, Italian style. Too mushy, a poor taste to the crème, just the type of rubbish one usually receives from the majority of the supposedly great, high-end, very high-priced restaurants. Another dessert was nothing to write about. I cannot even recall it, enough said.

I choose to remember the other dishes and specifically the pork tenderloin. They were enough to overcome the sweets. I believe that the next meal at A Voce will be an overall disappointment. The general opinion is one of unevenness, some positive, some negative, in a balanced way. It is rare that a restaurant will consistently outperform the overall rating of the public and professional food critics when compared to my own rating. It has happened before but hopefully A Voce will not succumb to this fate though with the pending departure of the head chef, Andrew Carmellini, the outlook is worrisome.

NTG

Summary: My experience might have been better than most, though I must go with my own. Very nice place, good staff, some great dishes and terrible desserts. One of the handful of Italian places I would go back to but not in a frenzy. I would not put it in the category of great anticipation for a planned meal for myself but even on my own dime and time, I would not dread the thought or insist on another venue. Actually, that is not so common and is not a dig at this restaurant but is, in fact, praise. If there is al fresco dining during the summer, I would recommend it, especially in this neighborhood. Again, avoid dessert. Last visit, Summer ’07. Cost $80/pp

NOTE: Andrew Carmellini has left as of 6/08


Ratings:

Food – 87

Vibe – 85

Service – 85

Value – 82

Score – 85

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