Monday, May 9, 2011

Asellina in the Gansevoort Park Hotel

My latest piece on The Strong Buzz is about a dinner I recently had at Asellina, the restaurant in the semi-new Gansevoort Park Hotel. I'm still dreaming about the stuffed olives... Check it out:


The Meatpacking District has its draws: The Highline, Jeffrey, DVF, and the Standard Grill come to mind -the neighborhood does tend to exude a certain aura of pretension. It's definitely not where you want to go out if you're looking to save some cash. Stop in at the Gansevoort, located near the corner of 9th Avenue and Little West 12th Street and you may find it hard to justify elbowing your way through the snooty model-types just to pay $20 for a cocktail.

So when the Gansevoort Hotel Group opened a second NYC location in Gramercy, the last thing I was expecting was an approachable neighborhood restaurant with cocktails under $15 a pop. But that's precisely what they did with Asellina, a 10,000-square foot Italian restaurant located in the new Gansevoort Park Hotel.

The restaurant, which I visited on a cold rainy night, was designed by iCrave, the design firm behind such hotspots as STK, Tenjune and Crobar. It's lit by a fireplace, and despite its football field size, it somehow feels warm and cozy; it's a place you'll want to stay a while. A beautiful bar made of dark wood runs the entire length of the front room and is surrounded by several matching tables. Off to the side of the bar is an intimate lounge that is the perfect spot to relax over cocktails ($14, a $6 savings over the MePa).

The atmosphere at Asellina is truly delightful, loud enough to feel the room's bustling energy, but quiet enough to carry on a conversation without shouting. Our waiter was a charmer with a thick Italian accent who never let our water glasses go empty and kept up a perfect pace for the entire meal. When a friend showed up to join us for dinner, he kindly moved us to a great low table in the corner of the restaurant that was surrounded by comfortable couches. This allowed us to sit back, relax and enjoy our evening as the food was promptly delivered to the table.
The kitchen is under the care of chef Marco Porceddu, who hails from Sardinia. He most recently worked in Las Vegas at Bella Luna, a place he opened after a stint with Steve Wynn. He's clearly one who wants to please every appetite. His dinner menu begins with Antipasti and Flatbreads, moves on to Pastas (Primi) and Entrées (Secondi); it offers enough variety for a meal of a little bite with a glass of wine or a multi-course feast. We went for the feast options, starting off with the Burrata cheese and stuffed cerignola olives, followed up with the sausage and goat cheese flatbread, and the pasta with pistachios and lobster, and the sea bass special.

The Burrata was as luscious as you'd imagine: a kind of love child of cheese, butter and sour cream. It's served with both red and yellow tomatoes, and drizzled with a beautifully nutty olive oil. We finished every last bite. The olives were olives in name only. Just small enough to eat whole, they arrived stuffed with roasted veal and Parmesan, then very lightly fried to a crispy finish. Salty and rich, but not at all greasy, they vanished quite rapidly.

The sausage flatbread was quite good, an easy dish to share with a beer at the bar, but the dish that stole the show was the pasta with pistachio nuts and fresh lobster meat. The nuttiness of the pistachios somehow made the lobster meat even sweeter. It was something I'd never tasted before, and a dish I hope to have again and again.

The sea bass arrived was perfectly cooked, and flaked apart under my fork and melted in my mouth just as the Burrata had a few courses back. But perhaps we could have skipped a course or two, because we were officially full.

I enjoyed a strong Espresso for dessert and sat enjoying conversation with my dining companions for hours. Our waiter never rushed us, never made us feel us feel unwelcome and urged us to stay as long as we wanted. As stepped back out into the rain, I didn't even mind the nasty weather because of the wonderful experience I had just had at Asellina. I got all the perks of dining at a Gansevoort-quality restaurant, but none of the pompous attitude.

Asellina is located at 420 Park Ave S E 29th St, (212) 317-2908.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

1 comment:

  1. I'm going there tomorrow - so excited! Sounds delicious and tell Andrea I say hi! :)