“Perhaps you would like to start out your meal with some burrata?” After we ordered all of our dishes, the server, seemingly innocuously, asked our party. We responded, “Sure, why not?” What no one realized was that the burrata came with caviar and bottarga, with a price tag of whopping $60. For a relatively small pile of burrata with caviar, we were paying for almost one person’s share of a meal at an upscale restaurant. The feeling that you somehow got the raw end of the deal was the prevailing theme of our dining experience at Italienne when my wife Jun and I met up with a friend visiting from out of town. The dinner at Italienne, which opened last fall under the helm of chef Jared Sippel (who was supposed to lead the Manhattan outpost of acclaimed Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare until he decided to split as the project kept getting delayed), featured a good mix of French and Italian-influenced dishes that at the end turned out to be less than satisfactory.
Italienne is divided between the dining room at the back and a tavern area at the front. When the restaurant first opened, the dining room exclusively served four-course tasting menus at $98 per person. When we headed over, that option was gone and instead there were a la carte options and six-course tasting menus at $140 per person. Given that we were a party of three, we opted for a la carte thinking we would have opportunities to sample more dishes at cheaper price. What didn’t occur to us is that the portion was a major issue at the restaurant and the price wasn’t exactly on the affordable side. Each appetizer ran at $18 per dish, and yet it was hard to find anything memorable about the tiny beef striploin carpaccio with asparagus. The sweetbread with Dijon and English pea was just as forgettable.
How about pastas, each of which the restaurant charged $25? Again, I don’t understand how the kitchen measures portion size, but it almost seemed like they were just teasing the diners with a little bit of taste without bringing total satisfaction. Still, I had to give a thumbs up to the tajarin with red wine beef ragu and English pea that was quite rich and delicious with great balance of flavor and firmness of noodles that was just right for me. Pappardelle with snail ragout and prosciutto was also serviceable. For main dishes, each charged at $35, I seriously wondered whether these dishes were meant to be appetizers. Loup de mer of Mediterranean sea bass was nicely cooked, but it should’ve been double the size it was served at for that price, and the four story poularde of milk fed chicken and crayfish was so tiny that we honestly didn’t know what justified the price tag for a dish that didn’t use some magic ingredients or awe-inspiring techniques. For desserts, I still keep thinking about the delightful fraises des bois consisting of olive oil gelato and strawberry pate de fruit, while granite of roasted rhubarb was solid but not overly impressive.
Getting a reservation doesn’t seem too hard, and the dining room was not overly packed on a Friday evening. There is full bar at Italienne with French- and Italian-centric wine selections (at least there were some reasonably priced wines here!). The dining room has a somewhat odd vibe (neither a fine dining destination nor a casual neighborhood restaurant) that didn’t appeal to me when I stepped in. Later that night, about two hours after we finished the desserts, Jun started complaining that she is hungry again, although as she recently picked her wedding dress, she said, with remarkable determination, that she will refrain from late night snacking. Ah, the power of wedding dress! In any event, Italienne has some promise but at this point it is an incomplete project. The kitchen could start with showing more generosity in portion size.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 7.0/10
Address: 19 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10010
Telephone: (212) 600-5139