We had a truly special meal at Le Bernardin a few years ago, so when I heard that they were opening up a more casual spin-off, Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, helmed by their sommelier, Aldo Sohm, it was high on our “must try soon” list.
We popped in last weekend, when they were open for just about a week, and I instantly felt at ease. We were a bit worried that by not planning ahead, our jeans were going to be out of place, however, all the waiters were actually in jeans and the fun, casual nature of the place was apparent from the colorful, fun art on the walls to the friendly, unpretentiousness of the wait staff.
But casual does not mean unprofessional. The bar was beautiful and big, with some couches in front and high tables around the perimeter of the room.
The wine list is extensive, thorough, and spans the gaps of many different price points and options.
The menu is like high end bar snacks, with a heavy weighting towards charcuterie.
We started with the Whole Baked Cauliflower with “Roasted Chicken Salt.”
The “salt” was crispy roasted chicken skin, which added a very rich flavor that made this already great vegetable really pop. The only problem was that to get the whole head of cauliflower fully cooked, it lost all its bite. It was a bit mushy and overcooked in the middle, which was a shame. If it had some toothiness left, this would have been a killer ish.
We also ordered the Short Rib Skewer which came with fried shallot and red wine reduction. The short ribs were just kind of ehhh. At $12 per skewer, the portion is pretty small, and the meat itself didn’t taste much different from other so-so short rib dishes I’ve had. It was well cooked and tasted like short ribs, but it really wasn’t much more than that. The mashed potatoes on the other hand… WOW. Those were GREAT! They should offer them alone as a side. Best part of the dish.
One thing on the menu that caught our eye was the Tibetan Yak Cheese. This was on the menu as a separate dish for $10/ounce with the following description: “Imported from the Tibetan Plateau, Yak cheese is considered a rare delicacy with great health benefits.” I was very excited to get to try a new cheese. So when I noticed that it was also included on a pasta dish, we opted for that. The dish was Truffle Pasta with Grated yak cheese.
I wish this was great. But it just wasn’t. It didn’t taste all that much of truffles, and the cheese really didn’t add much to it.
It was good… don’t get me wrong. But it just wasn’t all that truffle-y nor did the cheese taste much different than any regular cheese.
A few days later, I came across this article that says that the yak cheese hasn’t come through customs yet, however, so now I’m not even sure if we had the yak cheese at all! (And if we didn’t… someone should have let us know!)
We were still a bit hungry after those snacks, so we went back to the menu and decided to order some charcuterie. We got the speck and the fireplace smoked pork loin. Both of these meats were absolutely incredibly, inching out the mashed potatoes as our favorite part of the meal. We especially liked the speck, and it paired perfectly with our Vouvray (which was easily polished off a bottle of).
For dessert, we ordered the Red Wine Dark Chocolate Ganache Mendiant, which was listed as $12 for four pieces. We also asked our waiter to advise on a wine to pair well with it, and they suggested a really great port (though I can’t recall the name).
I was a bit… surprised… by how they served the dessert.
The filled chocolate disks were wrapped in little plastic envelopes and labeled with the same type of labels we put on our file folders at work. Hmmm… While I dig casual, I felt like this really degraded the dessert. Especially at $12 for 4 very thin candies, I thought it should have been served with a bit more care.
Once I got over my judge-iness, however, the actual candy was beautifully done and had great flavor. The chocolate was very high quality and the thin ribbon in the middle was rich and not too sweet. Very good.
I just wish they found another way to serve it.
Overall, I can’t say I was thrilled with our meal. I wanted it to be great. This has all the makings of a great place. But with Le Bernardin as the foundation, the food is expected to be phenomenal and perfectly executed. Perhaps they are still getting their sea legs, but I have to hope this is not their best foot. I will go back, because it’s a great place to grab a glass of wine and some bites, but it is not destination dining and I can’t say “You MUST try the food!” I expected more.
Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10