Sometimes the higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment. Nothing could be more true about my experience at Asellina for New York City Restaurant Week. I was so excited to see one of my favorite friends, catch up and eat really good food. The first two happened, but the third was like the worst cliffhanger, dangling too long with an anti-climatic ending.
The dinner date started strong with the aroma of my friend’s bourbon, the loud dance remixes, and almost too trendy décor. But waiting at the table too long, menus in hand, mouths watering, poisoned it. It gave us plenty of gab time, moments to soak in the sights and a chance get hungrier, but we were starving for the attention of the staff.
Eventually, we ordered and were not too deterred (although, I might have said “Let’s just leave and get pizza” a few times); we had red wine and each other. After time, the music felt louder and our hunger intensified due to frustration.
Our mains came out quickly, which created an uneasy tempo for the meal. A cast iron pot held a thick pool of cheeses, soft gnocchi and textured artichokes, ushering the scent and tastes of comfort, but nothing memorable. The roasted veal shoulder was tender, but forgettable with no flavors to ignite the senses. Its polenta waffle was intriguing, but too greasy and laden with garlic, an effort to make up for what was lacking.
Now, dessert was on the horizon, our glasses of red wine were emptying, and we were becoming weary of the place, an itch to escape hung heavy. The desserts were like artwork to be looked at and not touched, or eaten. Two cubes of dense chocolate ganache were interrupted by salty, almost savory brittle— rich and chocolaty, smooth and crunchy. The pretty millesfoglie also had a savory bend to it. While the wild berries jam brought brightness to the meaty puff pastry and mascarpone zabaione, it was still too dark and dense. (Sidenote: I could not bring myself to finish, which is unheard of, but something was extremely off-putting, maybe it was just the culmination of an unsatisfying experience.)
I did not leave happy, only craving something delicious and pizza, and regretting the meal. Perhaps too much flavor was injected into the concept of Asellina and not enough was inserted in the food—a pretty façade for underwhelming food and worse service.