Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ai Fiori Is Amazing

Ai Fiori's chef de cuisine Chris Jaeckle, for whom I used to work at Tabla, recently got the three-star nod from The New York Times' Sam Sifton. So, when I was in Manhattan, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'd already been hearing raves about Ai Fiori from my besties, who know Chris too. CJ kindly put us on the books late one Friday night, and we partook of a culinary-palooza for 3-plus hours. Have a gander ...

Compliments of the chef: a flavor and color explosion that came in the guise of a hamachi sashimi palate cleanser.

Heavenly foie gras torchon with a crunchy crumble of pistachios, tangy-sweet rhubarb mostarda (aka chutney) with pickled chunks of rhubarb and plenty of brioche toast.

My fave pasta: agnolotti—described as "braised veal parcels" on the menu—accompanied by a handful of fava beans and dressed in an earthy black truffle sugo.

DY waxed poetic about the semolina saffron gnocchi swimming with hunks of blue crab, bits of sweet sea urchin, chopped tomato, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and toasted breadcrumbs. It was just a smidge too salty for me—still good though.

The trofie nero (thin twists of pasta infused with squid ink) came tossed in a Ligurian crustacean ragoût, cuttlefish, scallops and spiced breadcrumbs. I gotta say, it was a tad saltier than the gnocchi, so not a perfect dish for me, though DY liked it lots. Still, it's better than most pasta creations I've had.

I chose the bouillabaisse as my main and was ever so pleased with the subtly seasoned saffron fumet, garlicky rouille, and tender pieces of red snapper, scallops, langoustine and manilla clams.

DY's main was insanely rich: lamb chops with foie gras wrapped in caul fat sitting on wilted Swiss chard. I'd agreed to go splitsies with DY, but after two small bites, I was done with this dish and happily dove back into the bouillabaisse.

Of course, these are just a handful of the awesome dishes we enjoyed at Ai Fiori. Also, not pictured:
- warm chocolate sformato, lemon-honey, stracciatella gelato
- Ligurian olive oil cake, ricotta, pear confit, port, gelato al caffé
- plus 2 other decadent desserts

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