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restaurant reports

« Treatment for the common cold | Main | Bagna Cauda as dressing »

March 18, 2006

Comments

Charlie Cook

Just went there. The place is so loud. I don't understand why they would design it that way. Chairs are great but that's about it. The server was all about the upsell and service in general not there yet. They poured us red wine in those little glasses on the table. The sommelier fixed it. Prices are fine on menu except for $10 side of broccoli rabe. Wine list is hit or miss and champagne prices by the glass are outrageous.

Marie and Howard Stone

We have to disagree with the review above. My husband and I had the pure pleasure of dining at a voce and have only the most wonderful words. Everything was perfect for us from the service to the atmosphere to the outstanding food. We lingered in this very upbeat NYC establishment for a few hours. Everything we ate was delicious and in some cases very unique. It was a delightful evening out, and we highly recommend a voce.

augieland

I am very happy that you enjoyed your meal at A Voce, and thank you for
saying so. I am interested in what part of my observations you disagreed
with:
did you not:
1 find the food noticeably sweet?
2 find the prices of the wine egregious?
3 find the room loud?
4 Find the espresso sub-passable?
5 agree that coffee should not arrive at the table before the cheese course?
6 find the choice of wine offerings out of sync with the chef's menu?
As I say in the report I suspect people will like it, it takes all kinds of
restaurants to please all kinds of people. I agree in the blog that the
service was quite good or at least obviously capable of being so. Which is
why I am interested in why you chose the word disagree. If you have the time
to elaborate I would appreciate it.

jason

ate there tonight:
1. i did not find the food noticeably sweet. one of the pasta sauces was sweet, but then i think a good tomato sauce, with the tomato flavors and its sugars concentrated, should be on the sweeter side.
2. i didn't look at the wine list closely, but i did notice some were strangely priced.
3. i didn't think the room was that loud, certainly not as loud as alot of other nyc restaurants. the ambient ding, though, was somehow harsher than it should be.
4. didn't have coffee, but then again i've given up on finding good espresso in north america.
5. i believe coffee should arrive at the very end of the meal, after dessert, by itself. but that's rarely observed in any restaurants.
6. again, didn't look at the list closely, can't comment.
still had a great time there. the food reminded me of italy, i'd say 80% there, which is really all i can hope for from an italian restaurant in new york.

Liz Schulman

I suppose personal opinion is what makes the world go round, but I can't imagine we dined in the same restaurant. A Voce was one of the best dining experiences I've had in NYC and I believe others will agree. The strength of the food is it's fresh and simple preparation, never overindulgent and just the right amount. I did not experience too much sweetness in the dishes but the desserts (especially the tirimasu) was perfect. I cannot comment on the prices of the wine but I think you spent way too much time focused on that one aspect of the experience and allowed it to color too much of your opinion. The service was well executed and I like the energy of the room. Although not subdued, I had no problems hearing my dinner partner. I think your impressions will not be shared by the majority of patrons who dine at A Voce and I highly recommend it.

augieland

Thank you for that, Liz. I am glad you liked it. The good news is my focusing on the wine list seems to have been of some help, some friends of mine have been to A voce recently and reported that the bottle featured in my report is now $600. Still expensive but not expensive x 2.

As for the rest of my criticisms as a say in the report they can all easily shake out as the place matures but I am suspicious of the ethics of any place that would allow that list to begin with.

As far as the sweetness goes allow me to touch on a new theory I am developing on the two types of people: If you are a person that would rater drink: milk, beer, wine, black coffee, or water than soda, juice, cocktails, coffee with milk and sugar, or gatorade you may not love A Voce.

Liz Schulman

So much for your theory. I do drink mik, I love beer and wine and never drink soda, juice or gatorade. I suppose taste cannot be boiled down to the beverages one chooses.

augieland

Oh well either back to the drawing board, or more has changed since my posting than the prices on the wine list. Maybe I have to add A Voce next to Per Se on the list of places that some how managed to have an impossibly uncharacteristically bad night on my maiden voyage. If only there weren't so many places in this awesome town getting it right regularly, they would get a first chance at a second impression sooner.

Do me a favor Liz read another of my posts about a restaurant you love or hate and see if you always disagree with my thoughts. If so I guess we have to agree to disagree on taste, otherwise maybe you got lucky and I didn't this time.

Ilda

Augieland,
I just went to A Voce this weekend and had an amazing dining experience. Everything was perfect from the wine to the food (wonderful flavours)and let's not forget the service. (by the way are you a food critic?if you are - who do you write for?)By reading your critique, it seems to me that you are out to bash A Voce more than anything else. Why can you not say at least what you DID enjoy. they must do something right because for the last 4 weeks the place is packed with regulars and does not look like it's going to let up any time soon.

My husband is in the restaurant business and found the place, food, wine and service great with good clientele.

You might want to go back but this time without the Bubby and try to be more objective. If you don't want to $1200 or $600 bottle of wine then get one you can afford.

I don't understand people like you who write such nasty things about a place and don't stop to consider for one moment how difficult it is to start a restaurant and keep the clients coming every single night (A Voce is packed every night until late) so maybe the majority of the people are seeing what you cannot.

augieland

Ilda,
I usually like to respond to people’s comments when they seem to have misconstrued the intention of my report, in your case I am not exactly sure you either read my post or read my blog. Do you really think my complaint with the wine list was that I can't afford it, and that I was nasty? Is it not clear I thought the service was a "tight ship?"
Sorry for any confusion you feel.
It may help you understand if you red Gael Greens positive blurb in Ny mag, http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/insatiable/16628/ what she calls "a hint of orange" I call "sweet, as if the orange was Grand Marnier rather then zest." I will neither discuss the perceptions of subtleties in my palate or hers, nor will I go into that in any instance a dish that has a hint can easily become too much and what makes a great place great is this not happening. I try to cover this in the first paragraph with “…You may like it”
The truth is were it not for the ridiculous wine list I may have gone back before posting but I disagree with a place taking advantage of peoples general ignorance of fine wine, and will not support a business model that takes advantage of it.
A Voce wants to be a simple Italian place, the most simple of Italian ideas is good wine with good food for all, doing their job would be encouraging this not raping the wallets of people that don’t know better and neither should you.

Abraham Merchant

A voce was a wonderful experience; I went to dinner with my wife last week and I had terrific time. The food was amazing, although I expected that being Andrew Carmellini at the helm…The service team was professional, gracious and unobtrusive. The dining room and all the seating was well appointed, the art installation was very dramatic and well balanced for a elegant room. I cannot wait for my next visit to A Voce

bub

hello. this comment is in response to ilda's comment from the 10th.

just to be clear: we all went to a voce absolutely hoping to love it (i feel comfortable speaking for all three of us on this point) - it is more or less in our neighborhood, has a chef with a sterling reputation, and is in an up-and-coming restaurant area. certainly i was hoping it would be good so that it would attract people and shift some of the city's dining center of gravity towards the area to help out urena, which i believe is the best new restaurant in the city but may have trouble staying full.

unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed. this absolutely was not due to a predisposition to hate the place.

i will now address some of your more specific points.

paragraph 1, 1st point: are you saying that a bad review is inherently one where the reviewer is "out to bash [the restaurant] more than anything else"? or are you attacking the tone of the review? i can tell you that we were all very optimistic and then were all quite disappointed. do you believe that in such cases a review should not be written? i understand the desire we have in america to make everyone feel good by saying only positive things: in my high school we abolished the concept of a valedictorian so that everyone who was not the best student wouldn't feel bad (and no, it wasn't i who was the best). you seem to disagree, but i would argue that this coddling encourages mediocrity. i would implore you to think about whether or not that is really what you mean to imply.

paragraph 1, 2nd point: you assert that packed = good. i reject this. let me ask you this: does "packed with regulars with no sign of letting up" equal "good restaurant" or "good value"? i would say no. to take an admittedly extreme example with respect to the first, my local mcdonald's does a pretty brisk business in the neighborhood. that does NOT make it good. this example could easily be repeated on a sliding scale of price/quality in pretty much any neighborhood. concerning the second: it depends on what your definition of "value" is. i like to judge my restaurants on the food. some like to judge based on the food and the scene. we in new york sometimes unfortunately have a preoccupation with the cache that comes with a place: let's face it, how else would you ever explain the fact that one can't get a reservation at pastis? i mean, aside from the fries (which are frankly pretty good), everything else there is a poor representation of bistro food. that clearly does not stop people from going there to see and be seen. the same holds for many places, from felix to cafe des artistes, all of which unequivocally suck. it's your prerogative to like any restaurant you want, but to say that a packed restaurant equals a good one is a difficult point to defend.

paragraph 2: it's nice that your husband is in the restaurant business. i'm not. i certainly eat a lot, though, and i have been privileged enough to have had the opportunity to try some of the best places in the city and elsewhere. i am not sure that makes either of us better placed than the other to judge the quality of a restaurant. if you think it does, i'd love to hear why. (if anything, i would lean towards arguing that people in the restaurant industry are often "taken care of" in good restaurants, so someone in the industry is somewhat more likely to have a biased opinion and therefore is a less capable critic. i'm not saying you and your husband received better service than anyone else for that reason, but that's the only difference i can think of.)

paragraph 3, 1st point: "You might want to go back but this time without the Bubby and try to be more objective." is this wit? i'm not sure i get it. for clarity i am very objective. moreover, if my mere presence is enough to distract someone from the food, then the food's not that great. and it's "bubby", not "the bubby".

paragraph 3, more serious point: you say "if you don't want the $1,200 or $600 bottle of wine then get one you can afford". i would encourage you to go back and read what was written, because you have totally missed the point. this was not a discussion of "affordability". it was a discussion of "value". there is a big difference, and it's more than just nuance. they're two very different concepts. whether or not any of us could afford the $1,200 bottle of wine is absolutely beside the point. the point made, for which this one particular bottle of wine was used AS AN EXAMPLE, was that the wine list is absurdly overpriced. or at least it was, since i understand that at least some of the prices have been lowered since my visit. for a place that supposedly caters to food lovers, and especially for a place that goes out of its way to say its cuisine is "simple italian food", i find it inexcusable that the wine list should have such hefty markups. certainly bottles shouldn't cost two and three times what they cost at other fine restaurants. your comment really doesn't address this point and completely misses the mark.

paragraph 4, 1st point: i very much appreciate the difficult task of opening a restaurant and keeping people coming. mounting any business is hard, especially when it's in a highly competitive environment selling to fickle people who have a lot of choice. but should that mean that we have to love any restaurant, or any business, simply because it's been launched? or because it's packed? that's silly. please see my prior comments.

this is a sub-point: what do you mean by "such nasty things"? please note that augie's review did not say that anything was *bad* with the exception of the wine list and the espresso). certainly i didn't think the food was bad. frankly, i personally thought that the duck meatballs were great (though augie and "wife" didn't really love them). the bottom line is that we had one great dish, a few good dishes, a terrible espresso served at the wrong time and were not impressed with the wine list, for $90/per. please - please - tell me why saying that we'd rather choose another place where we can get more utility out of our $90 is a nasty thing to say. because i really don't know what you mean.

paragraph 4, 3rd point: perhaps the majority of people are seeing what we "cannot". you never know. i will remember that point the next time i criticize president bush. after all, a majority of the country's voters elected him. so they must be right.

william harlan

I dined at A Voce for the first time last Thursday night based on the high recommendation of my hometown friends Frank & Pardis Stitt (James Beard award winning chef/author), and my food and overall dining experience was nothing short of excellent. I've been fortunate to travel the U.S. and Europe for years to experience the mid to highest of fine food/wine and meet the chefs behind that food and I will say that after briefly meeting him Andrew Carmellini seems to me to be a winner personally and has an absolute winner with A Voce. I've dined at virtually every noted restaurant xx times in NYC from Balthazar/Craft style metro casual to high French style Ducasse/Daniel and everything between, and in its cuisine space, the food presentation and taste at A Voce was superb, the wine list was well suited for the cuisine offered and not over-priced by NYC fine dining standards, and the wait staff was excellent and very cordial. I'm always amused about people who pan prices on a menu or wine list of a first rate restaurant I have an answer for them....if you want a superior evening food/wine experience and don't want to or can't really afford to pay for it....go to the chain restaurants, which is what I'm sure most of these folks are use to, and as far as the noise, if you were dining with someone interesting and that you were in to, you wouldn't hear the noise anyway! Congrats to Carmellini and A Voce, I be back again very soon.

augieland

I appreciate your comments, Mr. Harlan. Rather than spend time complimenting your ability to afford wine, you should re-read the example and realize that the wines I referrence are selling at a 50+% discount on the menu you read thanks to my post, so your are welcome.

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