429 Amsterdam Avenue
(Between 80th and 81st Streets)
New York, NY 10024
Vai a Vai….Odesso! (Go Go Now!)
Another dead ringer and crowd bringer for the Upper West Side….yes ladies and gentlemen, Vai is finally and definitely a viable option for dinner tonight, tomorrow and every other night of the week. This recently opened Italian / Mediterranean-style establishment changes its menu so frequently that if you go every night of the week for dinner; you may still not eat the same dish twice. Chef Vincent Chirico, the man who runs the show, literally grew up in one of the city’s most Italiano neighborhoods…..good old Staten Island. Vincent is not only the Executive Chef, but the pastry chef, wine director and owner of this 50-seat restaurant! Tall, dark and very Italian, Vincent plays a great host in his dining room, making sincere pleasantries with everyone.
The restaurant is small enough to do so, which makes it feel more as if you are coming to a family establishment. Vincent Chirico is obsessive about the culinary details and the fundamental techniques that are the fundation of his culinary imagination and establishment. An added bonus is that he has selected the staff for their personalities, intelligence and love of food.
Inspired from his training in France, his travels in Asia and Europe, and his New York City experience, Vincent is constantly creating and evolving. He is a world-class chef, inspired restaurateur and gracious host.
Bottoms up! That’s what I have to say about our first drink. This frothy, hot pink-colored Watermelon Cosmo is phenomenal, and a nice refresher to get the palates ready for what was to come.
Hamachi and Yellow Fin Tuna Duo is served fresh atop a creamy bed of avocado. The ginger sauce in this dish was sharp, and gave the fish a light tangy flavor, but the fish still starred as the “centerfold” it was meant to be.
Vincent is very particular about his wine selections for each course; my favorite was the Relativity, Pinot Noir, a beautiful 2010 wine which glided down your throat like a child going down a slip n’ slide.
Chef Vincent’s risotto, which was served alongside the Alaskan roasted King Crab Leg, was creamy and wonderful. The mascarpone cheese really made this dish. Vincent incorporates mascarpone into many of his creations which I have zero complaints about, as I have a long time love affair going with mascarpone and any cheese in general.
At the beginning of the meal some beautiful, warm and crusty Italian bread paired with a Garlic Olive Oil was brought to the table. The Chick-Pea and Eggplant Mousseline dipping concoction was amazing. This Eggplant Mousseline was by far the best companion for bread, and every restaurant in this city should take note. This tasty dipper really pressed the line, “less is more.” It consists of pureed eggplant, touch of olive oil and drum roll please…mascarpone cheese! I felt bad for my fellow diners when I realized I wasn’t leaving them much of the Mousseline that was served for the table, so I asked for an additional side just for me!
When it comes to dessert (and men), the more chocolate involved in the interaction, the more I am in love with both. And of course, the richer the better too! There are exceptions to my rule however, one being the delicate Passion Fruit Semifreddo served at Vai.
This blissful dessert is creamy and light, yet not overly rich, with a strong passion fruit flavor that lingers on your tongue long after your last bite. This dessert was unbelievable.
Back to the first point I made on my preference in dessert, the Frozen Chocolate Mousse with Espresso Mascarpone was to die for. In contrast to the semifreddo, this one is dense and rich, and award worthy indeed. It was love at first bite.
The wait staff of a restaurant is like the children of the chef / owner. They embody everything that was ingrained in them and at Vai, and on this night they were exemplary. They are all amazingly friendly and knew each dish to the last ingredient. The restaurant is definitely worth a visit…..for the Eggplant Mousseline alone! Vai also calls Soho its home, as there is another location downtown. This just means even for the notoriously lazy downtown folks, they have an option to try Chef Vincent’s dishes too. Dear Vai… you had me at mascarpone!
Rada Steinberg is a foodie and wordsmith from birth. Rada grew up inManhattan, NY but was born in St. Petersburg Russia. Growing up in NYC, she was lucky enough to be exposed to some of the most unusual and tasty foods around. Having traveled to numerous countries throughout Europe, including Portugal, Poland, Spain, andothers, Rada believes her taste buds have been trained and are now prepared for the experience necessary to be a food critic. Rada studied in Rome, Italy for a year as well. Cooking has always been a huge love of Rada’s, and she’s interned for a restaurant PR company, and even worked for a Restaurant Reservations company. Her experience and appreciation for well-prepared food and seamless service is the perfect fit for DinnerReviews.com©.