(New York, NY) By some miracle, we were able to check in very early to our hotel, freshen up a bit, then strike out for lunch. Thanks to OpenTable.com, we had reservations at Asiate on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Hotel. Hungry, somewhat tired, we hailed a taxi and looked forward to a quiet meal before the inevitable first-day nap...
The entrance to the hotel is very strange, with only a bank of elevators on the first floor. Apparently, the lower floors of the building are either condos or businesses. You have to ride up to the 35th floor just to get to the lobby! When the doors open, we are presented with a spectacular open lobby area with sculpted chandelier and a lounge next to the wall of windows. Since we're a bit early, we decide to enjoy a glass of Prosecco in the lounge. The Manhattan skyline just outside seems surreal as we sip the bubbly.
Finally, the restaurant opens. We finish our drinks and check in with the hostess, who leads us into a dining area that is white and airy with the sun shining in. According to my request on OpenTable.com, we are shown to a small table right next to a corner window. Central Park is just below and we can see nearly half of Manhattan! It is an amazing view.
For lunch, Asiate offers a prix fixe 2 course menu for only $24.10 (not sure what the significance is of that number). We ask our quietly efficient, if not overly-friendly, server to suggest wine pairings with each course and his recommendations are spot-on. A fresh-tasting amuse bouche of tuna tartare arrives on a spoon from the kitchen, along with some cheese puffs that are nice but pretty plain, then we're off and running with the courses.
I start with a bowl of the soup du jour, a deep golden Fall Squash with truffled brioche croutons. We are informed it has been made with no dairy, just pureed, but it is so silky you don't miss the cream. It's nice, but not inspired. A glass of 2008 Barone Fini Pinot Grigio matches the sweetness of the squash, creating an autumn symphony that is celebratory yet mournful of summer's passing.
The plat du jour is too good to pass up: potato gnocchi with a medley of fall vegetables in a heavy tomato sauce. It arrives on a shallow plate, green, yellow and brown colors surrounded by the rich red-orange sauce. The earthy squash, eggplant, and brussel sprouts contrasts with the sweet, salty tomato and Parmesan, then all the elements bond when the crisp, doughy gnocchi is introduced. My inner vegetarian is thanking me, though the overall experience is just above average on my tongue.
Dessert seems too foolish, since we need to sleep a bit before the evening's festivities, so I end with another glass of Prosecco. We aren't getting away that easy, however; the kitchen sends out some chocolate biscotti, cookies, and presumably homemade orange jellies. The bill is a bit higher than expected (thanks to the wine). As I look out the window and finish my Prosecco, I decide the only reason to come back to Asiate is for the amazing view. Otherwise, similar fare can be found at ground level for a better deal.
The one thing I enjoy about frequent travel for work is occasionally I discover someplace fabulous and later share it with Jeremy. I had a business luncheon with a colleague at Asiate and knew this was a place I had to bring him the next time we came to Manhattan. I am so excited we're here together for lunch!
As soon as we walk into the Mandarin Oriental the air is slightly perfumed with something floral and spicy. It's refreshing and relaxing; I immediately forget the grimy cab ride over, the honking horns and hectic pace just outside the door. We take the elevator up to the 35th floor (ears popping) and head towards the bar.
We purposefully arrive early so we can enjoy a drink before lunch and soak in the view from the Lobby Lounge, just outside Asiate's doors. Unfortunately, all the seating near the windows is either occupied or reserved. Guess it's not such an original idea? Our mood will not be dampened and we slide into two cushy chairs, order our bubbly and enjoy some people watching. I am worried our request for a table near the windows at Asiate will not be fulfilled and I really want Jeremy to experience the restaurant as I did the first time.
I shouldn't have worried. We are seated right at the floor to ceiling windows overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park. The trees are only just beginning to show traces of autumn's yellows, crimsons, and oranges. People are eating lunch on the benches below and some are even stretched out, soaking up the sun. Seeing this makes me inexplicably happy.
I begin with the shaved mushroom and artichoke salad mixed with slivered radicchio and microgreens sitting in a swirl of bright vinaigrette. The mushrooms and artichokes are meaty and lush; the radicchio is bitter and the vinaigrette adds some tang. This is fall in New York on a plate and one of the best salads I've ever had.
Next is the lamb loin with roasted brussel sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms, zucchini, and potatoes. The lamb is juicy and dark pink, cooked to medium rare. The sprouts are caramelized from roasting and the other veggies are crisp tender. I hate mushy veggies and these are perfectly done. There is a thin layer of chanterelle sauce under it all. Before I know it, my plate is empty.
Our waiter suggests a French Sancerre to go with my salad and a red blend from Long Island for the lamb. Both glasses are spot on and I am so delighted with the Long Island red that I order a glass for dessert...which goes perfectly well with the gratis biscotti, cookie, and fruit gelee he delivers with the check. I cannot recommend Asiate enough. This will be one of my regular stops in Manhattan. I'll meet you there for lunch anytime!
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