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Early Responders Weigh in on Michael White's Ai Fiori

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Krieger, 11/30/10

Last week saw the opening of Ai Fiori, Michael White's second restaurant this fall but first since separating from partner Chris Cannon. This time, he's set up shop in Midtown comfort zone, taking up the second floor of the new Setai hotel. The restaurant's theme is French Riviera and there to lend a hand is a crack team of industry vets - an all-pro team, if you will. What do the people think of White's first Cannon-less project? To the early word:

The "Home Run" News: Eater commenter, SSgtKellogg has nothing but praise to bestow upon the place and White. "I ate there and i loved the food and the service. This place is first class in my book and look forward to going back and eating their again. I had the Hen and it was out of this world. The staff was like watching a drill team for the military, no mastake and always on their A-game. Chef White has hit a home run with this place. I felt like i was a VIP the whole time i was their. Keep up the great work Chef White and your staff." [Eater Comments]

The Good But Pricey News: Gael Greene files the following tweets: "Michael White's Ai Fiori in Setai pretty busy lasngt. Had some excellant food, one spectacular pasta, Remember, just first week...So much complexity in Michael White's food lasngt @AiFiori, much to savor think abt. Need to chill out tonight&mindlessly eat pizza...Checking Ai Fiori prices..starters up to $27, Lincoln doesn't look outrageous anymore. life seems in denial." [Twitter]

The "Predictably Good Pasta" News: Mouthfuls forum member irnscrabblechf52 has a small meal of 2 appetizers and a pasta on their visit. The appetizers are a mixed bag. "Capesante was tasty, commendably sweet scallops balanced with trout roe. Granchio, crab with avocado, was a bit fishy and very fussy." The pasta itself was good, the additions to it not so much. "Pansotti were predictably good, but then again I'm partial to White's pasta. The apple brunoise scattered on top was silly though." The final verdict? "My prediction is that the critical community hates it, but it survives." [Mouthfuls]

The "Less Hyperactive Marea" News: Fellow Mouthfuls forum member Sneakeater visits and tackle its placement right off the bat. "This restaurant suffers from Bad Hotel Placement syndrome. Even worse than Atelier Robuchon or Shang. There is no dedicated entrance (that I could find, anyway). To enter the restaurant you have to ascend an unmarked (but obvious) staircase in the hotel lobby." But at least the food is a win. "Somewhat to my surprise, I liked the food here. I think it works better than Marea because it's not trying so hard. That's really what it is: a lower-key, less self-concious, less strainedly luxe, less hyperactive Marea. (With more meat dishes.) Of course, Michael White was in the kitchen." The desserts, though, lose. "Bob Truitt's dessert list is a minor disappointment. Clearly, he's trying to come up with a moderately conventional (but innovative) list that ties in with the supposedly Southern French thrust of the menu. The Vacherin I had was very good, to be sure -- but not magic." [Mouthfuls]

The Excellent News: Eater commenter MomoBaby writes, "Went to Ai Fiori this weekend. Pastas were excellent, as expected. Black bass alla plancha was crisp outside and flaky inside. Fluke crudo was also wonderful. Desserts by Robert Truitt were masterfully prepared and delectable. They only had a short wine list, but I was promised that it should expand in the coming weeks, now that the liquor license has been approved. The dining area is nice and airy, if a bit staid. The color motif seems to be taupe and cream. Ai Fiori is similar to Alto and Marea in temperament and cuisine, so it is a return to form of sorts for Chef White." [Eater Comments]

The Twitterific News: @trufflesnyc thinks quite highly of the place. "Madonna mia. AI Fiori is gonna give Marea a run for its money." @floorrice tweets, "I just ate at Ai Fiori and had culinary items I didn't even know existed." @OzerskyTV visits, has a star sighting but that wasn't the highlight. "At Ai Fiori, sitting near jonathan franzen. But the lobster is the star!" @sytsma comments on the cocktail operation. "Ai Fiori has the most serious martini-mixing, like, basin I've seen in a while." @jalynhenton tweets, "Solid! Try the wagyu." [Twitter]
—Gary Wong

Ai Fiori

400 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10018 (212) 613-8660 Visit Website

Ai Fiori

400 5th Ave., New York, NY

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