I have always been a fan of Stephen Hansons restaurants. His company is called BR Guest. He has slowly built a small empire around the country with restaurants in New York, Chicago, Scottsdale and Las Vegas.
Fiamma on Spring Street opened a few years back to rave reviews. 2 story building. Beautifully done. Warm colors, soft lights, beautiful leather chairs, awesome hanging lamps. I really liked the way he had done this restaurant. This must have been the jewel in the company because this is the restaurant that Hanson chose to roll out across the country. I'd think that if you were using the brand, Fiamma, to roll out across the country, you would keep your eye on the first kitchen. Unfortunately, he hasn't.
We went back last night for Emilys bday, what a mistake. I will never go again. A few good things but as a rule, bad news.
3 of us started with the grilled octopus. That was probably the best thing on the menu. Octopus grill to perfection on top of an eggplant camponatina with pine nuts. The eggplant camponatina was sweet and flavorful and the pine nuts added a different texture. That was the height of the meal. The other 2 had the tuna carpaccio. Nothing great.
Only one of us really wanted to do the standard Italian dinner fare, pasta as the second course. We asked the waiter to just bring that with the main course. Did he, no. It came solo so we all tasted. It was actually good. Chocolate pappardelle with rabbit and veggies in a rich brown sauce. Sounds strange but it was quite tasty. It would have been much better with a thinner pasta but otherwise an interesting combination.
Dinner was the worst meal. 2 of us ordered a pasta for the main course. Quill pastas with prosciutto, truffle butter and parmigiana. This could have been divine. It was so dense that you couldn't even finish it. Conceptually a great dish but poor execution. One of us had the pork chop which was OK. Braised cabbage and onions served with a large marinated pork chop. The portion was tremendous and didn't need to be considering that the Italian concept is 3 courses. 2 of us ordered the branzino. The minute I saw the presentation I knew it would be bad. A huge piece of fish laying over a mound of couscous that was surrounded by a red sauce, 2 mussels and one shrimp. The taste was bland, the fish was overcooked. Also, except for the pasta, everything was served lukewarm at best.
Dessert was a must since it was Emily's bday. Nothing great. Josh had a piece of apple cake with roasted fruit on the side. The cake was so hard that when I reached over for a bite, I couldn't get my fork to go in and the small piece of cake left when flying onto the floor. Not a good sign. Jessica has the lemon custard. Not light and not very flavorful. It was served with some type of horrible tasting fruit ice. Emily went for the chocolate. Three different chocolate tarts on a plate. Nice presentation but again really dense and not really flavorful.
All and all a total bust. So sad too. The place was definitely not as packed as it has been in the past. We have actually tried to walk in for a drink at night if we have been in that neighborhood. Next time I won't even bother opening the door.
Alas. Time for Stephen Hanson to go back the plate. Perhaps he should eat dinner there incognito.