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Eater Mailbag: Reports on Tasting Room, Intent and More

Friday. A world of weekend opportunity awaits at your doorstep. But where to dine? What to order? How to parse the promising newcomer from the Deathwatch Committee front runner? Why, with a little help from the Eater Field Inspection Team (E-FIT, for short), of course. These are their reports.

1) Tasting Room: "Went to The Tasting Room just as they've started serving dinner in the new location in Nolita. The food was every bit as good as in the old East Village space, which means amazing. (Best dishes were ultra fresh roasted black cod and a mackerel escabeche. Plus a plate of amazing chanterelle mushrooms served with a wonderful soft-poached egg.)

"While not quite as intimate as the old space, the new restaurant manages to stay fairly cozy because it's divided into three rooms, the front with a bar, seating 10 or so at tables; a back room seating around 45 and a third room for large parties that can be shut off for private parties seating around 40. They have a liquor license and an array of cocktails with fresh juices and such that look worth trying, though we stuck with wine. They're hard core: they're making their own cola, ginger ale, bitters, etc.

"The big change: they've pretty much abandoned the whole small plate concept and raised the menu prices. Traditionally both appetizers and entrees were offered in "taste" size portions for $10-$16 or "share" portions at double that price. Now, the menu is more conventional, but the prices seem to be 20-25% higher. (There's a note at the bottom that says sharing portions are still available upon request). The folks there explained that the basic portion size is now larger, somewhere between the size of the old portions.

"We ordered normal portions and shared everything anyway. Despite the higher prices, we still got out of there for around $50 per person before tip, including one glass of wine and dessert. Pretty reasonable. And very excellent."

Ahead, Intent passes inspection; Room 4 Dessert and Aroma Espresso Bar do not.

2) Intent: "Ate last night at In Tent. Sat in the front room--not under the "tent" referenced in the name.

"Food was good--had a crab napoleon and Dorado with an excellent Feta Cheesecake and Poached date dessert (could have done w/o the white pepper ice cream, tho). However, they seem to be having a bit of an identity crisis.

"Service was friendly--they forgot to bring out our wine until after the apps had arrived, but were apologetic and nice about it. But, they all wear these cheesy t-shirts that say IN TENT on them with a big yellow flower. Kind of down-market and out of place with the vibe they're trying to give off with the décor.

All in all, quite tasty--and a good neighborhood spot with little 'tude. But I think they need to resolve a few issues with aesthetics if they ultimately want to survive. Just feels as hokey as the name right now."

3) Room 4 Dessert: "Was at Room 4 Dessert at around 10 p.m. on Saturday night with some friends. I'd heard all the hype about Goldfarb and was excited to give the place a try. It was an absolute, unmitigated disaster. Goldfarb himself was there, running around like a madman. Quite clearly, he is micromanaging the place, which causes all sorts of problems when it gets busy. The waitstaff was utterly clueless - our server had to be told how to pour a glass of wine (i'm not kidding). Couple next to us got up and left, and were chased by their server. They had had some drinks and refused to pay because they'd been waiting for almost an hour and had not received their dessert order.

"We waited 45 minutes, and our tiny plates were finally dumped in front of us. No explanation of the food - nothing. The dishes were just dropped on the counter and we had to guess what we were eating. The panna cotta had melted into a tiny puddle. Simply awful. And it wasn't that they were understaffed either - there were at least 5 servers running around, all clueless. At one point, Goldfarb shouted to everyone that a menu item was no longer available. I haven't had a more unprofessional experience in
quite a while. As we were leaving, an older couple who had been waiting for a long long time for their desserts called Goldfarb over and asked if they should just come back another time. They had been waiting for a ridiculously long time and were being quite civil - Goldfarb got all flustered and was being obnoxious. Totally ridiculous scene - avoid for at least 6 months until they get their shit sorted out.

4) Aroma Espresso Bar: On my way to work today I decided to try the new Aroma Espresso Bar on Houston/Greene. I ordered an iced coffee. Price? $4.15. Shocked I asked the price of hot coffee. $1.50. So I questioned this differential and was told that the ice coffee was “blended.” Hmmm. Actually, the drink is really just a shot of espresso poured into 8 oz of whole milk (yuck!).

"On my way home from work last night: Didn’t realize it was open 24-hours. When I came out four guys clearly from Aroma were smoking while leaning against my friend’s sports car which happened to be parked on Houston. I looked at them a couple times in disbelief then asked them if it was their car, even though I knew it wasn’t. They replied no, and kept on smoking. We’re talking about a car I wouldn’t lean on if I owned it."

Have you a dispatch from the field of your own? We're awaiting its arrival, as you know.

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