Fiamma (closed)

by Susan on January 21, 2008

[Food:3/5]

While Fiamma’s interior was getting a facelift last year, new chef Fabio Trabocchi was busy re-inventing the menu. While Trabocchi was born in the Le Marche region of Italy and his food is founded firmly in these roots, his complicated preparations illustrate a flair for creativity that draws on influences outside of Italy’s borders. The result is modern and imaginative Italian food, though sometimes it seems, Trabocchi lets his imagination get away from him.

Supple black leather chairs, sleek tile work, lacquered wood, square-framed artwork, and amber orbs of light create a sophisticated and chic environment. Gorgeous dishware, in varying shapes and sizes, is flanked by contemporary cutlery. Aesthetics have not trumped comfort, and despite the chic surroundings, Fiamma feels relaxed, not stuffy. Maybe even too relaxed? We were disappointed to find many diners in jeans.

The service was more friendly than skilled. For the pricey fare, a few miscues were hard to overlook. In addition, the temperature of the dining room and the food was an issue throughout the evening. In the dining room, we would be pushing up our sleeves one minute and reaching for our wraps and sweaters the next. Every course arrived from the kitchen a few degrees too cool.

Before I move onto the food, I must mention the cost of dinner at Fiamma. When I made this reservation at the end of 2007, the price of Fiamma’s 3-course tasting menu was $75. Imagine my surprise when we opened our menus in January to find that it had been increased by twenty percent – to $89! There is no a la carte menu at Fiamma. You have a choice of a 3-, 5- or 7-course tasting menu. The 3-course menu, offered at $89, does not include dessert.

Some dishes succeeded. Some, despite intense thought and preparation, fell flat. Others, promised to be interestingly fussy on the menu, but their execution lacked vital flavor and texture. Le Vongole e La Seppia, a delicate stew of smoked cuttlefish and mussels, was lovely to admire but too salty. La Misticanza, a lovely salad of radicchio and pears tented by rectangles of pecorino excelled in its simplicity.

If you keep up with these reviews, you will have read about the Burrata we had at Supper a couple weeks ago. First, let’s forget that the Burrata at Supper was quadruple in size compared to the one at Fiamma. Next, let’s ignore that at Supper it was one third of the price. What was impossible to overcome was that Supper’s had much better consistency and flavor.

Fragrant saffron was not enough to rescue the soupy Risotto and its underdone rice. The Gnocchi’s ginger infused sauce had an unappealing tang and despite pieces of lobster, the dish was certainly not worth its $15 supplemental price tag (yes, that is on top of the $89). The Le March Lasagna was outstanding. Spherical pasta is layered with a decadent mélange of liver, gizzards, and sweetbreads.

For the Vitello, a pink and prim veal ribeye sits next to a deep and dark, slow-cooked veal cheek. The underlying potato puree and crunchy hazelnuts confirmed the dish as a triumph. Both the meat and cauliflower stufati of the L’Agnello, the Colorado Lamb, lacked heartiness. The hint of game in Il Fagiano, the pheasant, provided the ideal canvas, but an uninspired preparation took no advantage.

We dug deeper into our wallets and decided to order dessert. La Pera, a warm and buttery pear cake, was perfection. The Gianduia, a milk chocolate cream and Gianduia ice cream lacked richness and intensity.

Fiamma puts on a great show, but the price of admission was simply too high.

Fiamma
www.brguestrestaurants.com/restaurants/fiamma_new_york
206 Spring Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 653-0100

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