Sour Grapes: Bobby Van’s

American, Fine Dining, New York, Sour Grapes

There’s a lot on my mind about Bobby Van’s, but first let me establish some credibility.

I’ve spent 4-5 years in the food industry at four different restaurants, both in front and back of house.  I know intimately all the ups and downs that come with food service, as well as the tricks restaurants don’t want you to know (more of your food is frozen than you think).  Because of my experiences, I’m slow to complain about service and food and quick to make allowances for less-than-fabulous experiences.  However, after my meal at Bobby Vans I just couldn’t keep quiet.

When we walked in at 7:00pm on a Friday to a nearly empty restaurant, I should have been scared.  I shrugged it off as a lunch crowd place.  It is, after all, directly across from the NY Stock Exchange.  Bobby Vans is an institution!  They don’t need to be busy at peak dinner hour on the weekend, right?

Our surly server begrudgingly took our order.  Having been in his shoes, yes, restaurant week probably sucks.  You’re taking a serious pay cut when three courses are offered for $38.  But as any seasoned server knows, you grin and bear it because that’s how the industry works.

“[Restaurant week] is your chance to wow me so I come back for my special occasions.”

-Snax

-Wow us, he did not.-

I’ve been to four establishments for this year’s restaurant week, and all most of them really focused on making their menu special.  Bobby Vans only included salads as appetizer choices.  Oh, how special.

My entree was beyond terrible.  Now granted, I don’t necessarily expect fresh, homemade pasta.  That’s a ridiculous standard to keep when you’re cranking out business at New York’s volume.  However, I’ve honestly had delicious, high-quality, frozen lobster ravioli at other places.  This was far below that standard.  Outside of restaurant week, the ravioli costs $28 a plate!!!  Highway robbery!

Snax’s chicken was clearly better, but it still wasn’t a victory.  The sauce was… buttered caramel corn flavored?  And the chicken, while moist, had charring in places that bordered on burning. There was not a vegetable in sight, unless you count risotto (I don’t).

In my opinion, this is a restaurant that peaked and is unwilling to accept that their glory days are over.  Yes the decor was beautiful, and yes they have a $1,500 bottle of wine on their menu.  But if you never update the food to fit current trends, how can you expect to stay relevant?

I’m guessing the NYSE keeps the place in business, because it’s certainly not the weekend crowd.  Even their own press page is heinously outdated.  With so many original, innovative, cozy places to eat in New York, why would anyone waste (a lot of) money here?

-Legs

 

The best part of the meal was when I discovered the truth behind our “candlelight dinner.”

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Bleu, Blanc, Rouge!

Food, French, New York

The Battleground

Marseille, Hell’s Kitchen, New York

The Contenders

Lamb Chop Mareilles Edited

Lamp chops, pole beans, roasted eggplant, lamb jus and balsamic glaze. Omg.

Legs:

Let me start off by saying that I love lamb.  A lot.  It’s so delicious and I rarely have it, so this meal was a huge treat.  What’s more, this lamb in particular was amazing.

Perfectly seasoned, beautifully cooked, just the right amount of au jus… wow.  A little bit difficult to get off the bone at times, but you can’t blame the lamb for that.

What do I love as much as lamb?  Eggplant.  This plate has both?  Sign me up.  The eggplant was roasted until it was soft but not stringy and set on top of a balsamic glaze which it absorbed like a sponge.  Dredging lamb through balsamic glaze and chasing with a bite of eggplant may be my new favorite hobby.

The pole beans were a perfect blanket for the meal.  Still nice and crisp, a light green was the perfect complement.  Using another dense component like potato would have sent me over the edge, but the beans had the perfect amount of snap and air to form a stellar cohesion.

I’m obsessed.

Salmon Marseilles Edit

Salmon, roasted heirloom tomatoes, caramelized fennel, citrus broth. What could go wrong?

Snax:

When my salmon arrived wearing its ten-gallon tomato hat, I was so excited. I invited the salmon to take off his hat and stay a while. His friends salt and pepper were supposed to tag along, but we were stood up. Harsh.

It was an OK dish, but it could have been great. The citrus broth was wonderful and the fennel was exceptional. I absolutely hate fennel seeds, but I am now a huge fan of fennel itself.

Things were going very well until I bit into the salmon and tasted disappointment. What happened? No seasoning to speak of. Not a hint of salt or whisper of pepper. I looked over at the now toppled tomato and hoped it had more to offer. It really wasn’t fair of me to ask for more from a humble tomato. You tried, my friend, you tried.

If the salmon had been seasoned properly or had absorbed the broth’s flavor, then I wouldn’t have had a single complaint. C’est la vie.


And the winner is…Legs!

✓Protein  ✓Sauce  ✓Sides/Veggies  ✓Presentation

Every component of my dish was flawless and packed with flavor.  Snax’s poor, under-seasoned salmon never stood a chance.

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