46 West 22nd. Street, btwn. 5th and 6th Avenues,
Flatiron District, Manhattan
Nicois cuisine; cost of average meat or fish entree, $33
While this Flatiron newcomer, eponymously named for its chef-owner Alain Allegretti, captures the light, subdued elegance of Provence through an understated, elegant decor accented with sea coral and other marine fossils, the service exudes the haughtiness of Paris in July. Unfortunately, the cuisine at Allegretti is also disappointingly uneven.
A chilly, couture donning manager could be observed diligently surveying the dining room, optically zooming in on the tables and coming within one foot of physical distance from a dining party, so as to give the impression that all is under his stern surveillance. However, without his ever actually inquiring into the status of things at our table, his stiff presence felt more intrusive than helpful. Except for the bussers, the aloofness extended to all of the servers. Throughout the course of the entire dinner, not once were my guest and I asked about our satisfaction. And had the question been asked, it would have had more than a perfunctory function on the night we were there, as an item or two would have been worthy of a negative remark.
Deludingly, though, the dinner started with palate-exalting amuses bouches, which consisted of a French country-style chick pea, escarole, jamon serrano, barley soup. The ham bestowed a note of smokiness to the harmonious subtleties of the barley and chick peas. Easily transported by simple, yet-inspired flavorful arrangements, I was poised to suspend my disdain for the haughtiness and fall in love with Allegretti. It was simply not to be. In a four course meal, everything went downhill after the amuses bouches, only to peak again for the fish entree.
The autumn salad we ordered contained on-the-verge-of-browning- radicchio leaves, wilted endive and hardly any of the anjou pear mentioned on the menu. Whether or not the salad contained any dressing was a point of debate between my dinner guest and me. Nevertheless, we agreed that the quantity was negligible because it was indisputably dry.
The “large” portion of chestnut cappelletti ordered was served in a huge, basin-sized bowl, that was three quarters empty. The filling was above adequate. The duck ragout was admittedly divine. The cappelletti themselves were chewy and had non of that tenderness that makes fresh pasta a prime Mediterranean comfort food. At $22 for a scant portion of essentially poorly executed ravioli, I felt ripped-off.
Masterfully prepared with a crusty exterior, the freshly-caught tasting, juicy filet of branzino was split open to house shallot marmalade, jamon serrano, sarawak pepper, cauliflower à la sarde, sundried tomato coulis. It was an appropriately portioned winning medley of flavors and textures and at $33, priced reasonably. The white bordeaux that we paired it with was crisp, with a clean finish and delicate bouquet was an excellent choice.