To avoid an hour wait for a table in the dining room, we sat in the lounge of Haven Riverfront Restaurant and Bar, after the hostess assured that there was the same menu and the same full service there. Little did we know that that service was going to be rapid fire. The Hudson Restaurant Week menu offered some dishes from the regular menu, but also had additions that were specific to the special $38 prix fixe.
The very pretty monochrome butternut squash ravioli prix fixe appetizer was inharmonious. Crunchy, meaty walnuts added the textual contrast but the sharp white sauce met with the sweet butternut squash filling with a sudden uncertainty. However the pretzel-crusted calamari demonstrated duplicity of textures from the crispy dark pretzel coating and the perfectly tender octopus beneath. Though the calamari lacked salt, which would heighten its flavors, the zesty marinara sauce and spicy aioli added punch.
The garganelli pasta Bolognese on the prix fixe, though not on the regular menu, came before we had finished our appetizers. It was just a deep bowl of pasta, overwhelmed by overly acidic tomato sauce and dry cubes of pork. The overcooked spiral pasta did not soak up the excess sauce, but only swam in it, and the ample amount of parmesan could not mask the poorly prepared pork.
Even the hanger steak entrée had a few missteps despite its contemporary plating. The steak cooked just fine, lacked the salt needed to bring out those meaty flavors. However, the roughly mashed potatoes were bright and created a good balance with the meat. On the side of the plate, like a slimy afterthought, sat a thick tasteless chewy mushroom, which added nothing to the dish. Neither did the parsley emulsion; it was just a pretty color to add to the dull browns.
A mildly sweet rice pudding, served with a red ball of cherry sorbet and a spattering of crunchy granola was offered for dessert. The pudding was wet and loose, not as decadent and luxurious as expected. The tang of the cherry sorbet brought the rice pudding alive, yet there was far too much granola.
The chocolate pot au crème was very dense and heavy, but the espresso cream and salty caramel pieces on its top layer stole the show. It was foamy, creamy with a subtle hint of coffee, and crystals of salty caramel candies made for a near perfect combination. Underneath the chocolate was smooth, dense and pudding-like, but almost too chocolaty.
Unfortunately the aesthetic of presentation throughout the whole meal was quite uneven. The butternut squash looked beautiful in their minimalist presentation, while the calamari appetizer appeared minimal. Same with the entrée duo— the hanger steak was like a piece of art, colored sauces and perfected staging, while the pasta was thrown in the bowl with too much sauce. The deserts also seemed to be on two different levels of attractiveness.
Haven fell flat. The service was poorly timed—drinks were a bit slow, appetizers came out quickly and the entrees came out even faster. Also the dishes did not rise to their full potential as they had been described in the menu. It appears the new restaurant has a few hiccups to smooth out, but there is promise in Haven.