The Boyfriend and I have been extremely interested in the Altamarea Group ever since he had a great meal at Marea after our graduation from college. We recently dined at All’onda, whose chef used to work under the Altamarea Group and we were blown away by how good the pasta was. So when Restaurant Week Summer edition rolled around, I quickly made reservations for Ai Fiori, one of the restaurants under the Altamarea Group. Ai Fiori boasts one Michelin Star, so we went in with high expectations.
We arrived early for out 11:45am reservation (we had a matinee show on Broadway afterwards so I wanted to give us ample time) and were told to wait in the lounge area. A few minutes later, we were seated – the first ones in the entire restaurant! But the other tables filled up pretty quickly during our meal, so I’d say they’re pretty popular! We were greeted by our waiter with menus – both a la carte and Restaurant Week clearly marked.
After we made our order, which our waiter didn’t even bat an eyelid to, our seating plates were taken away and bread was brought to our table. I want to comment on this – they come around and give you two pieces of bread. Around 20 minutes later, when our appetizers arrived, they came around again to give us more bread. We both really liked this because sometimes it’s such a hassle just to get bread at other restaurants. At Ai Fiori, bread just appeared on our bread plates! Ps. The bread was also really good – super soft!
I went with the Zuppa di Zucchini, or chilled zucchini soup with basil and lemon. I’m a huge fan of chilled soups so this was extra enjoyable for me. The soup was nicely flavored and had a hint of spice. With each spoonful you get a nice kick of heat but it doesn’t linger.
The Boyfriend decided on the Terrina di Maiale, or house-made pate. The presentation was lovely, but one gripe that we had was the lack of baguette! There was one tiny piece for the entire square of pate! Lack of baguette aside, the pate was delicious – stiffer than other pates that we’ve had but still very enjoyable.
For my entrée, I opted for the Pollo Arrosto, or pan-roasted chicken with polenta, pancetta, corn and hen jus. The chicken was moist and flavorful – there was a hint of herbs and lemon in every bite. The polenta was just soft enough and tasted really good when mixed up with the pancetta, mushrooms and corn bits. I wished there was more!
The Boyfriend opted for the Tagliatelle, which featured house-made pasta with capers, taggiasca olives and tomato. The pasta itself was cooked al dente and tasted fresh. But it was the sauce that really made the dish shine. The sauce was superb! The capers and olives really gave the standard tomato sauce a burst of flavor. The pasta was so good that he even declared Ai Fiori his favorite Restaurant Week meal to date (and we’ve had Dovetail, Nobu and Capital Grille!).
For my dessert, I went with the Crema di Cioccolato, or dark chocolate and coffee mousse with vanilla ice cream. I really liked the mousse – it was firm but not too much. The use of dark chocolate ensured that the mousse wasn’t too sweet and the ice cream helped sweeten up the bitterness of the dark chocolate and coffee flavors.
The Boyfriend went with the other option on the menu, the Panna Cotta with balsamic crema, almonds and market berries. I had a bite of his dessert – the balsamic and raspberry gave the sweet panna cotta a tarty flavor. I’ve had better panna cottas before but this one was pretty tasty.
We both opted to have a glass of white wine with our meal – they offered a white and a red wine for $10.00 extra on top of their Restaurant Week menu. They bring it over, offer you a taste and then pour a very generous glass if you approve. The wine was from 2006 so it’s almost a teenager in wine terms! We both enjoyed it and thought it paired very well with our dishes.
Service was impeccable – our water glasses were never empty and bread appeared on our plates without prompting. Our dishes came in a timely manner – we had just the right amount of time between courses to chat and slowly savor our food. We never felt rushed at all. I would definitely love to come back for a regular meal outside of Restaurant Week!