Desserts & Bakeries
Southern & Soul
Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens
Lower East Side
Upper East Side
Upper West Side
NEIGHBORHOOD: Flatiron/Union Square, Gramercy
Photo: John Lei for NYTimes
2 Lexington Ave. at 21st St.
Mailaino — little pig in English — is the most recent dining venture from YAH's favorite restaurant-making-machine, Danny Meyer. Housed in the Gramercy Park Hotel, I'm not sure what it looked like before, but after the Meyer-makeover it's looking pretty good. At first glance, earthy colors and refurbished woods provide a simple, understated charm. But look a little closer: notice the high-tech wine cooler behind the bar, the cool, industrial light fixtures and the gigantic windows with views of the park. It's thoughtful, detailed, and expensive. CONT'D
The front portion of the restaurant resembles a gourmet market, as it is divided into organized stations. A beautiful, high-end wine bar — serving all Italian wines and its own menu of small plates — greets you. Further in is a bread station with loaves upon loaves of crusty bread visible on shelves behind the counter. And finally, a salumi area, with cured meats hanging from the ceiling like at your neighborhood butcher. All of the action makes for an easily distracted dinner date.
Like all Meyer restaurants, Maialino is very thoughtful. Over dinner with a friend, every dish was split into two plates in advance, so that we didn't have to worry about egg yoke spilling onto the table. Our waitress, a bubbly, knowledgeable young woman, was eager to share her favorite dishes, and tirelessly repeated the night's specials.
The menu — printed daily so as to include new additions — is divided into several, chronological categories, beginning with salumi and ending with formaggi. The plates are on the small side, portioned so that you can have a proper, multi-course Italian meal. Antipasti are fresh and light: I preferred the fried artichokes with anchovy bread sauce to the celery root salad with soft-boiled egg, though both were very good plates. The pastas were also quite small. This came as a bit of a shock to me, having gotten used to the more trendy, massive bowls of pasta popular at say, Lupa or Corsino. Chef Nick Anderer's pastas are subtle, refined, and very pretty. The Raviolo Al Uovo, a large, solo ravioli stuffed with fresh riccotta, spinach and a runny egg, was sublime — sweet, tangy, and savory all at once. The Malfatti al Maialino folded into itself like a bundle of ribbons, decorated with soft bites of succulent pig ragu. Unlike a Batali pasta, jumping with flavors and always heavily salted, this one showed great restraint.
Unfortunately Maialino's alleged secret weapon, the Maialino al forno, (slow-roasted pig cut into portions), feeds two to four people, so we decided to check out the lamb chop instead. The meat was excellent, but it sat atop undercooked potatoes and came with bitter raddichio which I liked but my dinner companion did not. Dinner ended with a slice of olive oil cake, thick and moist like a proper pound cake, flourished with a dollop of cream. We were both stuffed.
Now, I'm a big fan of Meyer's restaurants — I've been to Union Square Cafe nearly a dozen times — but in a city overflowing with so much wonderful Italian food, I'm finding myself a little bit on the defense with Maialino. Perhaps Meyer's New American restaurants feel more true to me — this one didn't feel so much like a casual, Italian trattoria, as it did a utopian version of one, and while the food is really quite good, this is the Meyer restaurant to which I would least prefer to return.
Posted in FOOD on February 26, 2010 1:26pm by Jena Steinbach | 568 comments
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We are young (early 20's) and hungry (for knowledge! music! art! food!) friends living on (or in areas which border) Manhattan. We moved to the city seeking higher education, and an alternative to frat parties and gin buckets. We prefer a bottle of Chianti to a keg, lunches at City Bakery to a dining hall, Joe's to Starbucks, Frankie's Amatriciana to Batali's. Our uniting factor is our love for food. For detailed, personal information, keep reading.
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