Photo taken by John Lei for the NY Times
In a city full of overhyped, celebrity chef owned restaurants, Maialino manages to deliver on all facets of an amazing dining experience. Unfortunately, I am not the only one who feels this way, as it has become almost impossible to get a reservation as of late; more on that later. A few weeks back (I’m a bit late in my post), I had made the increasingly elusive reservations and could not wait to give the relatively new, self dubbed “Roman style trattoria” a shot. Yet, I have been to a few of Danny Meyer’s other places with mixed emotions. For example, despite thoroughly enjoying my meal at Gramercy Tavern, it was the price that was hard to swallow. I know your paying for the service and experience but still…I guess I’ve got to go back and eat at the bar, which I hear is just as good, and for a portion of the price. But maybe that’s why I was so excited to try Maialino. The menu looked amazing but the prices seemed really reasonable. Well, the meal was so damn good, the price was only a bonus.
We arrived 15 minutes early for our reservations and had a glass of wine in the bar area…A quick side note: we went back the other night for dessert and a glass of wine and realized that the bar area had an additional menu (even more reasonably priced) and it seemed to be much easier to get a seat. Just a thought for those of you getting frustrated with hearing “we are all booked for that night”…I was struck with how awesome the decor is. It’s a bit rustic, a bit classy, and a bit homey all mulled into one. I know that makes no sense but trust me, the atmosphere is really spot on.
When it was time to order, we got the sign of approval from our waitress that we had ordered well. It’s a staple of Meyer’s places which is why I shouldn’t be shocked, but our waitress was knowledgable, friendly, and seemed to orchestrate the pace of our meal perfectly. So what did we order? Having never had pig’s feet before, I knew I had to try! Suckling Pig’s Foot with White Beans and Celery. If someone told you that they had a way to combine the best pulled pork with the best fried chicken would you be intrigued? Well, this may not be how Danny Meyer would want me to explain it but wow was this good! Yet despite how much I loved this appetizer, the Fried Artichokes and Anchovy Bread Sauce may have even been better. It was everything I love about french fries and aioli but kicked up about a million notches.
When I had ordered the Olive Oil Poached Halibut for my main dish, the waitress kindly warned me of the texture. She suggested that some people are turned off by the way a slow poached fish comes out. I told her not to worry, but I’m glad she said something. As I was eating this amazingly flavorful fish the thought of the texture was on my mind. Poaching a filet of halibut in olive oil requires an extremely low cooking temperature which means, as the fish cooks the “raw texture” is not so transformed. But trust me, that’s not a bad thing. The delicate fish holds up better than normally and you get to experience all of the true flavor. Our other entrée, a Braised Beef Shank was another example of flawless execution; perfectly cooked, perfectly paired. Our waitress was right, we ordered well.
Somehow we managed to save room for dessert which was once again suggested by our waitress. The special of the night being a take on their normal bread pudding was the perfect end to a great meal. A little rich, a little sweet, the bread pudding was the cherry on top ensuring we would return.
Earlier I mentioned how reasonable the prices are and it really is true. Now don’t get me wrong, this may not be a once a week type of meal (If you can afford to do so, then make this your regular spot as there are too many wastes portraying themselves as great restaurants around) but the real appeal is how flexible the menu seems. We went overboard with the amount of food we ordered and it was still a reasonable bill. And hey, we were celebrating. This is why I can’t wait to go back! So whether you go to eat in the bar, or you are going to try to grab reservations, make sure Maialino is on the top of your list. I’ve been twice and it is still on mine!
Maialino: 2 Lexington Ave, 212-777-2410