Dinner at Dovetail, 3/18/08
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 6:23PM
The Lady Who Lunches in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary, Restaurant reviews

*This restaurant is no longer open.

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What better way to celebrate a friend's new career path and my recent job promotion than treating ourselves to a fancy dinner at a hot new restaurant? Besides an extravagant shopping spree...I can't think of anything more indulgent!

Dana and I had been hearing some amazing chatter about the Upper Westside's newest restaurant, Dovetail, and decided to celebrate with a long-overdue dinner date. Dana was able to score a 7 p.m. reservation at Dovetail for Tuesday, March 18th.

For someone who's embarrassingly unfamiliar with Upper Westside, I had to print step-by-step directions for myself to get me from point A. (my office) to point B. (Dovetail). My instructions were to take the (gasp) city bus, instead of the subway! In all of my years living in Manhattan, I'd never taken this mode of transportation! This would certainly make my entire journey from work to the restaurant an adventure!

I arrived at Dovetail around 6:40 p.m., giving me enough time to grab a drink at the bar and study my surroundings. On a charming, tree-lined residential street stood the 2 1/2 story restaurant in the most unassuming location, looking directly at a public school. Upon entering Dovetail through the front door and climbing up a couple of steps, I found myself in an L-shaped room consisting of a 10 x 10 foot bar, a couple of tall circular tables and stools, a large white marble "butcher block" that served as the host's stand and further back, the dining room. Before I could say a word, the host was in my face asking if I had a dinner reservation. I found him to be a bit intrusive and aggressive, but I knew that grabbing a glass of wine would be much more calming and serene. Upon staking my own table and stool, I was pleased to find that instead of having to approach the bar to order a drink, the bar tender came to me. After ordering a glass of Pinot Noir, I began to study the restaurant's vibe and atmosphere. First of all, Dovetail is composed of two dining rooms; one on ground level, and the other on basement level. The "1/2" level comes from five-feet worth of stairs to climb upon entering the space. The windowless top-floor is long and rather narrow, reminiscent of a railroad car. From the entryway to the host's table is a floor to ceiling enclosed wine cellar, exposed brick walls and modern gray-colored slate tiling, which turns in to carpeting once you enter the dining room. I felt like the moment that the carpet began, the creativity and interior design ended. The room was dark with boring taupe-colored everything. I swear, I must have been the only patron under age 40, until Dana would arrive.

When my glass of Pinot arrived, I gave the bar tender a $20 bill and asked for $10 back, since I'd noted that the wine was $9 on the menu. The man looked at me like I was insane, saying, "Your glass is $13, ma'am." After I informed him of my observation, he kindly grabbed a menu to confirm the price, and realized that I was right. He gracefully apologized and brought me the correct change. Not two minutes later, Dana arrived! We announced our reservation to the host and were led downstairs to the "other" dining room.

I was thrilled that we were seated downstairs inside of the small, dim, perfectly square-shaped room with exposed brick pillars and bright ivory padded (yes, padded! a-la-looney-bin) walls. Votive candles appeared to be the only source of light, other than the random cube-shaped windows exposing the lucid and lively kitchen. From my seat at our two-top, I had the uncomfortable view of fluorescent lighting that illuminated the cook space. While it was enjoyable to get a peek of the magic, my eyes were a bit strained.

Our waitress greeted us with dinner menus and inquired whether we'd like to see a drinks list. Dana ordered a martini and I chose to have another glass of wine. We decided to order a bunch of plates to split. To start, we chose: Brussels sprout leaves, pork belly and the Idaho potato gnocchi. For entrees, we ordered: Sea scallops and the sirloin.

After placing our food order, we were served an amuse bouche of a fluke-fish "lollipop." Stabbed with what looked like a short wooden chopstick was an ample morsel of snow-white, subtly marinated fluke that tasted as if it had just been caught that day. Simultaneously, a small saucer with two pieces of homemade, warm cornbread and sweet butter arrived. This carboliscious twosome looked identical to a pair of unwrapped Twinkies...Oval and slender in shape and golden in color.

Dana and I were delighted to find that the kitchen had prepared our first appetizer pre-split! The Brussels sprout leaves incorporated bite sized pieces of steamed cauliflower, firm and salty bits of Serrano ham, and crispy, nutty sunflower seeds. I found that the the ham infused the perfect amount of smokey and salty flavor, while the seeds added an unexpected "why didn't I think of that" crunchy texture to the dish.

Arriving at the same time were the pork belly and the Idaho potato gnocchi. Perched atop a bed of wilted kale and earthy mushrooms was a perfectly squared "slice" of golden pork belly. I found that the greens eased my "oh my gosh, this is so bad for me" mindset when I paired them with the rich and buttery meat. The pork had a crispy crust and a velvety soft and almost creamy interior. The addition of a vinegary pan gravy and silky, runny egg yolk enveloped each bite of meat making it nearly impossible for me to only eat half of the dish so that my dining partner could taste her fair share. I sadly passed the plate to Dana, trading the pork for the Idaho potato gnocchi. A bowl of the homemade pasta was topped with black truffle, pungent pecorino cheese, small chunks of sweet prune and braised "like it had been stewing all day" veal short rib-laced gravy. While I didn't find this dish bad, I felt that the pecorino cheese overpowered the entire plate of pasta. Luckily, the addition of the prunes added a unique and unexpected sweetness, which I found to be very creative and pleasant.

Our entrees arrived approximately twenty minutes later. Dana's sirloin was plated with a small rectangular slice of homemade beef cheek lasagna, which incorporated the use of thinly sliced potato instead of pasta ribbons to layer the dish. My perfectly sauteed, golf-ball sized scallops sat atop fresh ruby-red grapefruit slivers, blanched white asparagus spears, chopped salty marcona almonds, garlic and blood orange-infused hollandaise sauce. Hands down, this was the best seafood entree I've ever had in my entire life. From the subtle citrus essence, to the creamy hollandaise sauce, the crunchy almonds, to the densely crisp asparagus and melt-in-your mouth scallops, I was truly in food heaven. Legitimately, I could have eaten three more of these entrees. In fact, this dish was so good, that Dana and I didn't even switch plates! Yes, I did taste a bite of her sirloin and lasagna (both of which were good), but I wanted to savour every last morsel of what was in front of ME. Dana, if you're reading this, I apologize if I was too greedy with my scallops!

Dovetail is one of my top two "best" restaurants in Manhattan. I haven't been that impressed by an entree in what seems like years, as most of the time, it's the appetizers and dessert that truly shine. I look forward to returning to Dovetail again with family in tow, as I found it to be a great restaurant for unstrained conversation and the perfect introduction to some of the city's best farm-to-table cuisine.

Article originally appeared on The Lunch Belle (http://www.thelunchbelle.com/).
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