In the restaurant business, it’s not always about location, location and location like they typically say in real estate. Once you make a name for yourself in today’s day and age of people’s obsession with food, you can more often than not overcome the logistical challenges to diners even if you own a tiny joint in the middle of nowhere. People (myself included) will not afraid to take multiple subway rides or pay a hefty sum of money for Uber rides to get to your place so long as you can deliver in the kitchen. Still, I wouldn’t have expected an acclaimed chef like Jose Garces to open his second New York City project (after the first one in Amada at Brookfield Place) inside a hotel that looks like a perfect tourist trap caught right between Times Square and Bryant Park. Perhaps he (with his root in Philadelphia) didn’t realize that Luma Hotel where Ortzi is located is the culinary wasteland that is dominated by the likes of Olive Garden and Guy Fieri’s establishment that has already been discredited by countless critics? When my wife Jun and I showed up at a prime time on a Friday evening, the restaurant was almost deserted. Of course, why would people other than tourists dine in this neighborhood, especially during this time of the year when Manhattan is flooded with tourists? And, of course, tourists would rather dine at inferior restaurants in Times Square like Red Lobster and Applebee’s just because they don’t know what they want and have seen these chains in their suburban neighborhoods, right? My venting comes from a sense of frustration that Ortzi isn’t getting much love because of a tragic business decision because the Basque-inspired food at the restaurant was quite delicious.
Spain has a rich culinary history, and the Basque region in its northern part is particularly well-known for tapas and fine dining establishments. The modern take on Basque cuisine at Ortzi offered many memorable dishes. Curiously, the Bluefin tuna belly with caviar on top (charged at whopping $28 for four pieces of tuna belly) happened to be the weakest dish of the night for being overly oily. On the other hand, the thinly sliced braised octopus with garlic was delicious with nice balance of flavor and texture, and Jun and I couldn’t stop digging at the berberechos that we dipped the bread toast. The combination of cockles and chorizo created quite an interesting textural effect, and the potato puree added an addictive flavor that we very much enjoyed.
Jun was craving a meat dish that night, and was raving all evening about the delicately cooked wagyu sirloin that was cooked to near perfect medium rare with minimal seasoning to allow the meat’s texture to truly shine. The blood sausage that we ordered also turned out to be a winner, working harmoniously with roasted apple for a unique texture. Add a side of crispy potatoes with tomato broth underneath, and you have one very satisfying meal. The lone dessert that we ordered, a Basque-style custard tart called pastel vasco, accompanied by apricot and pistachio was also quite delightful but not overly sweet just as I would have liked.
Getting a reservation should not be an issue at Ortzi for the reason I mentioned above. There is full bar with wine lists centered around Spain and France. The restaurant’s overall atmosphere does look more touristy than trendy, and its deserted scene during our meal actually made us a little uncomfortable notwithstanding the delicious dishes coming from the kitchen. Would Ortzi have the potential to be a hot spot had it been located inside a trendy boutique hotel somewhere in TriBeCa or Williamsburg? I’m fairly confident it would have been checked out by more people (i.e. New York locals who are hungry for trying the next culinary destinations in the city). It’s indeed a tragedy that this fine restaurant needs to endure a cardinal sin of opening in a New York City neighborhood where no sane New Yorkers would want to go other than to watch Broadway shows.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 120 West 41st Street, New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 730-8900