Dining Out in 2011: Some Final Aspects

Most Disappointing Meal: Veritas
Fortunately, we did not have any meals in 2011 that were awful as happened in 2009* and 2010, so no “Worst Meal” category. Our meals ranged from good to fantastic, but it is truly unfortunate that our dinner at Veritas in January was a disappointment.

From the time it opened in 1999, Veritas was one of our favorite restaurants. We loved Chef Scott Bryan’s contemporary American cuisine and had many excellent meals during his long tenure. We did stop going there during the brief time Ed Cotton was executive chef because we heard the food had taken a decided turn for the worse. But then, Grégory Pugin was hired to helm the kitchen, and the cuisine took a huge upswing. His contemporary French cuisine was exquisite. Unfortunately, his tenure also turned out to be brief.

In August 2010, with no warning, the owner suddenly closed the restaurant — so suddenly that Pugin arrived on a Saturday to find the doors locked.  With no forewarning, he had been fired. I know someone who had a reservation for dinner that evening, and he wasn’t informed of the closure until six p.m.  Not exactly a fine way to treat either an employee or a patron. The owners posted a notice on the website that they were closed for renovations and would reopen in a few months with new decor and a new menu.

Veritas

Fast forward to the end of December 2010. They had reopened a few weeks prior with Sam Hazen now executive chef and partner. He had a fine pedigree, so we had high hopes when we went for dinner. Though Michael fared better than I, my first course was only fair, and my main course was wretched. So, Veritas had the dubious distinction of serving me my worst meal in 2010. Needless to say, I was not keen on going back.

However, in January 2011, Michael convinced me to give Veritas another chance. Well, this time, the food was better than what I had had in November. But that wouldn’t have taken much. Judged against Bryan and especially Pugin, Hazen’s food was woefully disappointing. There was one bright spot: the desserts by Pastry Chef Emily Wallendjack. They were wonderful both times, especially the “Dark and Stormy” Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Photos of the December dinner can be seen here and of the January dinner here.

(*In 2009, my worst meal was in the Gramercy Tavern Dining Room.)

Runner Up for Most Disappointing Meal: “Bring Me Food” Chef’s Table, 90 Acres, Peapack, NJ

David Felton is the executive chef at 90 Acres. We had never eaten his food before going to 90 Acres. Based on what I’d heard about how talented he is and how terrific the food was when he helmed the kitchen at The Pluckemin Inn, my expectations were high. We were seated with a view of the kitchen and were provided with a list of the ingredients that would be used in the dishes we would be served.

"Bring Me Food"

Before departing, we received a printed menu of our meal. Unfortunately, while there was nothing really wrong with the food at the “BMF,” it didn’t wow us in any way.

Photo set here.

Most Disappointing Sweet Treats: Spot Dessert Bar

Spot Dessert Bar

I had heard positive reports about this desserts-only place owned by the well-regarded pastry chef Pichet Ong.* But I liked only one of the three desserts we had, the soft cheesecake. The other two didn’t appeal to me at all.

*In September, Ong sold Spot to Ian Charlemkittichai. The menu remains the same.

Photo set here.

Most Unusual Setting: Chef’s Tasting Menu, Roberta’s, Brooklyn
Dining on superb haute cuisine in a pizza joint? What could be a more unusual setting for food of such high caliber? This dinner easily made my Memorable Meals list.

Roberta's

Photo set here.

Longest Tasting Menu: Chef’s Table, elements, Princeton, NJ

elements

We had dinner at elements for the first time in 2009, which I wrote about in this post. In May, 2011, we returned with our friend Bonjwing Lee to do the Chef’s Table. In addition to remembering Michael and me from our first visit and knowing that I had written that review, they also found out that our dining companion was the “ulterior epicure.” So, the normally 9-course menu morphed into 17. Prior to this, I’d had no difficulty finishing a 13-course tasting. However, in this case, many of the courses were much larger than tasting-portion size. Thus, by the time we got to No. 14, the “48-Hour” Wagyu Brisket, I was too stuffed to eat even a bit and had them doggie-box the contents of my plate. I did manage to finish the desserts, but just barely.

Photo set here.

“Welcome Back!”: Chef Alain Allegretti, La Promenade des Anglais
We were huge fans of the restaurant Allegretti. (I wrote about two of our meals in this post.) So, we were very saddened when it closed in the summer of 2010. However, in September 2011, Chef Alain Allegretti returned as executive chef/owner of a new restaurant, La Promenade des Anglais. We generally avoid going to newly-opened restaurants. But in this case, we just couldn’t wait to have Chef Allegretti’s food agai, so  we had dinner there the second night it was open.  As we anticipated, everything was delicious, especially the fantastic Baba au Rhum, which made it onto my Memorable Desserts list. Another dinner not long after was equally wonderful. And most recently, we had a delightful lunch there.

La Promenade des Anglais

The Mediterranean menu spans the Riviera coast from France into Italy. There is an excellent wine list. The staff, snappily dressed in striped shirts, vest, jeans, and sneakers, provides friendly, attentive service. The space’s very attractive décor captures the essence of Nice, Chef Allegretti’s hometown, and he has named the restaurant after the major boulevard located there.

La Promenade has rightly received universal praise from the professional critics, and the public has embraced it. It looks as though Chef Allegretti has a huge hit on his hands, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Photos sets of the three meals here, here, and here.

“Au Revoir!”: La Petite Auberge
La Petite Auberge was a favorite French bistro for years. I wrote all about it in this post. When we had lunch there in October 2010, little did we know that it would be the last time we would sit in that charming room. Exactly a year later, the owners retired, and La Petite Auberge closed its doors forever. We miss it!

La Petite Auberge

Photos of our final lunch here.

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2 Responses to “Dining Out in 2011: Some Final Aspects”

  1. ellenost Says:

    Great report (as always). I’m returning to Las Vegas next month, and already have a dinner reservation at Le Cirque where Chef Pugin heads the kitchen. I shall send him your best regards.

  2. thewizardofroz Says:

    Thanks (as always) for the kind words, Ellen.

    Lucky you! How I wish he were cooking at the Le Cirque here. We’ve never been but would be there in a NY minute!

    The first time we ate Pugin’s cuisine at Veritas, we were so bowled over that we asked if we could meet him to tell him so. He seemed quite shy and didn’t say much. (Don’t know how good his English is.) But we could tell he was very pleased by our effusive compliments. I doubt, though, that he’d remember us.

    Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks at WD-50. 🙂

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