A Voce opened up on March 8th in a neighborhood that seems to be blossoming with new restaurants. 26th and Madison, actually on 26th between Madison and Park. I am going to keep in mind that we dined at a restaurant that is only 2 weeks old.
The place was swinging when we walked in. Dark woods, glass bowl affect with windows surrounding the entire establishment. Fantastic service. The table wasn't available but they quickly pointed us to 2 stools at the end of the bar that were being vacated by people who were getting seated. Loved that. The bar seats about 10 people. Very comfortable white leather stools with small backs.
Not a huge place but a nice sized restaurant. The noise level is quite high and a bit hard to hear if someone isn't sitting next to you. Not sure you can fix that. When you walk past the bar, you see the tables around the corner and the wonderful wooden columns. Layers of wood stacked over each other and hung in the back. Nice decor. An interesting touch. It goes with the vibe and the deep neutral palette. Great wine cellar that is discreetly hidden but can be seen from the room. Nice touch. Very comfortable green leather chairs at each table.
Our waiter couldn't have been nicer and he just raved about the food. He suggested that we share so we can taste a bunch of different things. We were with another couple who are also foodies so between the four of us we probably would have ordered everything just to try. We held ourselves back, sort of.
We began with four appetizers. Winter salad with sliced fennel, green apple, watercress and pecorina cheese. Refreshing and tasty. The seafood salad was a mix of shrimp, mussels, calamari served with large cranberry beans and a dash of chili. Fresh and simply prepared. Grilled octopus was sliced and served over a peperonata, lemon and chorizo. I didn't love this one. The octopus was pre-sliced so some of the slices were a bit too big and chewy and the accompaniments didn't really enhance the dish. Our waiter oohed and aahed over the roasted veal sweetbreads so we did it as an appetizer. You can also order this as a main course. He was right. This was Delicious. Sweetbreads that were the perfect texture served with porchini mushrooms and walnuts in a really rich almost sweet brown sauce. Rich but excellent.
The pastas are what the chef, Andrew Carmellini, is known for. I love pasta but my figure doesn't. As a rule I generally just like to have a few bites. Here, I should have just ordered an entire plate of pasta for myself. As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans. We split 2 pastas. Spaghetti alla Chitarra. Lamb bolognese which was delicious over spaghetti and served on top was a ricotta and a small bit of mint. Big hit. The other was My Grandmother's Meat Ravioli. Simple large ravioli's served with diced slices of tomato and parmigiana. Really good.
Then came the main courses. This is where I wasn't so wowed. 2 of us split the beef rib chop Large quantities of beef cooked exactly as you ordered. The meat just wasn't as flavorful as it could have been. We ordered mushrooms with truffle oil on the side which was good but not as tasty as I was expecting. I went with the Grilled Daurade that was served over large green fava type beans and a tomato type salsa. Way too much garlic. Beautifully presented but sort of bland. The last main course we had was Chicken Cacciatora. Served in a small round pot with roasted sweet red and yellow peppers and crushed potatoes. The chicken wasn't thoroughly cooked. Another overdo on the garlic and oregano too. The tastes weren't balanced.
The wine list was great. We had 2 wonderful red wines from the Piedmont region. We skipped dessert because it was late and we all hit the wall. A Voce will certainly get better as time goes on. The majority of the meal was really delicious. The main courses need some work. The vibe is great, the service is wonderful. The location is starting to change since Danny Meyer made his mark on Madison Square. Change is good.