The New York Times has joined the chorus of critics not entirely sold on luxe cocktail bar The Aviary, with Pete Wells choosing two stars for the New York City debut of Chicago’s famed Alinea Group. Wells never gets entirely on board with the “elaborate magic tricks” that are drinks in the cocktail bar that sits on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental in Columbus Circle.
None of the drinks really catch his fancy. Even the “Wake and Bake,” which is his favorite, doesn’t seem to get him that psyched, with the theatrics of it overpowering any good feelings it inspires:
I admired the balance and complexity of the Wake and Bake, a mutant rye manhattan made with coffee- and orange-flavored vermouth. What I can’t imagine ever loving is being asked by a server to stick my head inside the inflated plastic bag in which it is served, to see that it really did smell like an everything bagel. It did, but it was one of several moments when I felt like a parent helping the Aviary staff to complete a project for the science fair.
Wells does take more of a liking to the food than the drinks, calling the truffle ravioli a “marvel” and a fried buttermilk- and yuzu-brined chicken thigh sandwhich “excellent.” But the snacks aren’t enough to make up for the hotel lobby atmosphere and over-the-top antics for him. As he quips at the end, just “Mix me a drink and I’ll make it disappear.” Two stars.