Marta

29 E 29th St. New York, NY 10016(212) 689-1900martamanhattan.com

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So, while Danny Meyer is busy reconstructing Madison Square Park to accommodate a bigger and badder Shake Shack, apparently he decided to take up thin crust pizza as a hobby in lieu of burgers.

Located in the Martha Washington Hotel lobby, hence the origin of the name, the restaurant feels a little homeless, not being its own thing. Granted it takes up about 95% of the lobby, so perhaps it’s the lobby that’s truly homeless? All of that aside, they do a nice job with décor. Open and contemporary with a sizeable amount of seating. But don’t let that fool you. You practically have to sell a kidney to get a table for dinner. Fortunately for my internal organs, lunch reservations come much easier.

A quick bite, however, it most certainly is not. The service runs at an escargot pace, so if you’re doing a business lunch, I recommend blocking a good two hours, because two Diet Cokes took over 30 minutes to hit our table. Lucky for me I went with a glass of Brunello, which only took about a third of that.

The pies also take quite a while, nearly 45 minutes, but I’m happy to report that most of them were worth the wait. Especially the Testa made with pig face and celery. It’s so inventive and just as scrumptious. A close second was the carbonara. Just as the name implies, it’s topped with bacon and egg and fontina. And it’s damn fine.

The least impressive of the three was also the least inventive, the funghi, made with hen of the woods mushrooms. It’s certainly good if you have your heart set on shrooms, but compared to the likes of the funghi at Oenotri in Napa, this tastes like something you can get in the freezer section at Whole Foods. And I mean that with all due respect.

Now, assuming you’ve cleared your calendar and venture on towards dessert, here’s what you should know- it’s nowhere near as great as other reviewers claim. The affagato was easily the better of the two, but be warned, it’s very untraditional, made with honey and kumquats as opposed to espresso. The ice cream is incredible, however, and truly makes the dish shine. On the other hand, the chocolate and pistachio ice cream sandwich with mascarpone ice cream was significantly less radiant. About as basic as it gets, tasting like something you could get at TGI Fridays… back in the 80’s.

All in all Marta is certainly good for lunch, I cannot tell a lie. But definitely don’t sell off any vital organs to get in. There are droves of better pies all over the city.

3 teeth

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Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave. New York, NY10010 • (212) 889-0905 • elevenmadisonpark.com

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I can only assume that the consistently ecstatic reviews of this place must only modify dinner, because it can’t possibly be the lunch. One of the most over-hyped under-delivered experiences I’ve ever had. The restaurant equivalent of watching the movie Seabiscuit. I was so underwhelmed, I started convincing myself that they must have a different chef for lunch than they do for dinner. Or that they forgot to serve me the same cool aid that everyone else has apparently been drinking.

And I wanted to like this place, I really did. But course after course after blasé course they just kept making it impossible for me. Granted, I know lunch is never the main event at places such as these, but to be a top restaurant in NYC, I’m sorry, if you’re doors open, you need to bring your A game. Otherwise, stay closed for lunch, which would be my strong recommendation.

Worse still, the food wasn’t the only thing that was a let down. Service was slow and inaccurate, messing up my dessert order, bringing me something I hadn’t even asked for. Then, after an even longer wait, they brought out the correct one, yet all three desserts were lack luster. I’m sorry, but with such a steep price tag and with so many other fantastic options in the Flatiron/Union Sq. area, this would fall near the very bottom of my list.

2 teeth

Shake Shack

Madison Square Park New York, NY10010(212) 889-6600shakeshack.com

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Once upon a time, this was easily 5 knives. I mean the Shack Stack (a fried portabello cap stuffed with cheese atop a beef patty) was hands down the best fast food burger I had ever had. But that was back when the Shack was just a shack. Before they expanded to Grand Central, the Upper West Side, Westport, Connecticut and Istanbul, Turkey. It’s the classic case of “how big do you get before you get bad.”

Well, having been back a gaggle of times between now and 2004, I can officially say they have reached it. My how far we have fallen Mr. Meyer. And while the Shack may have upped its game again for its recent 10 year anniversary, it’s right back to its old habits. Which is sad, because in its hay day it truly was worth waiting in that absurd line. A line so HUGE that if you were strolling through New York City and happened upon it, you would think someone was giving away free money. A line I, myself once waited in, and I don’t do lines. Shit, I even cut the line at the Vatican to get into the Cistine Chapel. And yes, if there’s a Hell I’m most likely going to have front row seats.

Oh, and speaking of Hell, as long as you were halfway to dying of a heart attack after that burger, another must was their black and white shake. I mean it is called the SHAKE Shack after all. So thick and creamy you could literally feel it dragging your stomach down to your feet. And then you obviously had to have the fries with it… I’m feeling dejafull just typing this.

3 teeth