I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but I can’t seem to stay away from Eataly. My plan had been to work late, but I saw on Twitter that Eataly was doing a wine tasting tonight in the wine store, so my plans to work late went out the window, and around 6:00 p.m. this evening I found myself back at Eataly.
No line! No crazy crowds at the wine tasting. A rep from the importer was there sampling four Italian aperitif wines, together with olives and salumi. What’s not to like? I rarely eat meat, but I made an exception.
Then I decided to put my name on the list for an early dinner at Il Pesce Cucina, Michael Cimarusti’s restaurant within Eataly. I mean he was right there working the line in the open kitchen, so how could I not? Plus there was this green fish on display which totally transfixed me.
I overheard the hostess saying that at some point in the future, Il Pesce Cucina will accept reservations, but for now it is an annoying process where you give your name and cell phone number and are told you will get a text when your spot is ready, but be sure to come back within __ minutes because the cell phone coverage is spotty and you might not get the text. I was told a 20 minute wait (which turned out to be more like 35 minutes, although people after me were told an hour wait).
Off to peruse the wine selections. The biggest selection of Amaro I had ever seen, although alas not this one elusive Amaro (Fuoco del Vulcano) that I have been looking for forever and which apparently is not imported into this country (I had it one night at Osteria Mozza and the manager of the Eataly wine store explained it must have been “suitcase imported.”)
After perusing the Amaros, off to the dessert wine selection. Biggest selection of Italian dessert wines I have seen in this country. One was $195, which caused me to inquire why it was so much and whether it was worth it and how it compared to Chateau d’Yquem. I was told it was so expensive because it was from a very small production and it was extremely concentrated, much more so than Chateau d’Yquem. I resisted the urge to splurge, although I may return for one of the more reasonably priced dessert wines like the one shown below.
Off to hang around the Il Pesce Cucina hostess station and watch Michael Cimarusti work the line. Finally seated at the bar. Ordered the uni crudo, wilted spinach and black sea bass with herbs and olive oil. The service was not quite ready for prime time. I asked the server about the ERA ORA Piedmont Riesling by the glass and she looked at me blankly, finally admitting she had absolutely no idea what style Riesling it was. She went off to ask someone and returned and pronounced it “balanced,” which really said nothing, but I ordered it anyway. It turned out to be pleasant – not the best Riesling I have ever had – but heads above the “Two Buck Chuck” style Riesling that unfortunately is one of the few white wines by the bottle served at the Waldorf Astoria Rooftop Bar in Beverly Hills. (Don’t get me started about the wine list at the Waldorf Rooftop Bar – it is truly an enchanted setting, but next I go there I am bringing my own wine and paying $60 corkage rather than drinking the swill they serve).
Struck up a conversation with the person next to me at the bar. Speaking of off service, she said she had sat there for 45 minutes before her food arrived and her server (the same one who looked at me blankly when I asked about the Riesling) had tried to pour a second glass of red wine into her unfinished glass of an entirely different red wine. My neighbor was sitting awash in a lot of complimentary dishes which had been sent out because of her long wait, and she graciously shared with me, including a nice halibut crudo. My neighbor ended up getting her entire meal comped.
The uni crudo was quite good, as was the black sea bass, although the black sea bass was a touch oversalted. The sea bass came with a few roasted potatoes, which were delicious. They hadn’t brought me bread and initially I didn’t say anything because I’m pretty carb phobic, but toward the end of the meal, I wanted some bread to sop up the spinach, so I asked for bread and some was brought to me, together with the house olive oil.
When my bill came, I was surprised to see that the black sea bass had been comped. Wasn’t sure why, since while the service was not stellar, it hadn’t been so bad that I would have expected a comp.
Oh, the only dessert they have is tiramisu. The waitress said that is because you can go to the bakery counter and get dessert if you want. I’m not a huge tiramisu fan and with the bread I had already far exceeded the amount of carbs I normally eat, so I wasn’t heartbroken. However, if I had had a long leisurely dinner with friends, I might have been somewhat disappointed not to be able to linger over a dessert other than tiramisu.
By the time I left there were long lines at most of the food counters (although no line to get in the door). I checked the chicken counter and the roast chickens were long gone. However, if you weren’t trying to have dinner there, you could shop for groceries in complete peace and there was no line at the checkout for groceries.
The rest of the mall was pretty dead, which was interesting. The whole theory of Eataly from the mall owner’s perspective is that “experiences” like Eataly will lure people back to shopping in brick and mortar stores rather than ordering online. That remains to be seen.