I think we’ve had the Fifth Avenue hotel on our calendar to review for the past year. So we almost forgot about it, until we heard about the new Andrew Carmellini restaurant, eponymously named Cafe Carmellini. We’ve always been big fans of a guy who brought us Locanda Verde and a chance to see Bono dining amongst us mere mortals. But take away some of the best scenes in NYC, and Chef Carmellini can cook. This is the review of the new Cafe Carmellini, hot off the presses.
Cafe Carmellini is one of those places you walk into, and immediately comment, “Wow this place is pretty”. Even if you don’t talk like that, that is the first impression of the restaurant space. It’s different though from Fouquet’s, also described as pretty, which trends more on the feminine side. It’s actually the balance of the masculinity of the decor in the light fixtures and color palate of royal blue, caramel leather seats that made me love the space. There’s a grand yet intimate courtyard feel, with trees that are the centerpiece of the restaurant space.
The crowd is also beautiful at Cafe Carmellini. This is not to say that there are super models running around or that a Casa Cipriani crew is dominant. However, it’s a nice mix of real in-the-know New Yorkers who appreciate food. The atmosphere is fine dining, but it’s not stuffy or overly formal. It kind of vibes like Le Coucou, which balances that Michelin-level food with a space that has good energy.
Food + Drink
I’m going to make a prediction, and it’s that Cafe Carmellini earns a Michelin star at this time next year. The food is the foundation of the whole experience, and Chef Carmellini flexes his James Beard award-winning skills on the menu. They just don’t serve you an oyster; it’s dressed in apples with a fresh mignonette that you don’t find everyday. The artichoke Florentine is a sleeper hit, in a light cream sauce, almonds and goodness that can’t be easily recreated at home.
The beauty is that although these are ingredients in the dishes, Cafe Carmellini is not heavy-handed on the cream and butter. It takes skill not to over-do it and more reflective of modern French cuisine that uses these ingredients in a refined and elegant way. Case in point my favorite dish of the night, and probably the reason I went there in the first place, was the Lobster Cannelloni. I can’t begin to describe what a surprise the dish was, even seeing it on the website. A very generous amount of lobster is elegantly placed into a thin egg cannelloni noodle, that I almost thought was a crepe. It’s finished off with a light cream bisque foam and topped with caviar. I could have drank the foam like a soup and almost asked for more sauce.
I can wax poetic about every dish, including the parmesan grissini, olive paste in olive oil, whipped butter and bread, that they bring out as part of their hospitality. You just have to go and experience it yourself. There’s something for almost everyone on the menu.
Like I said earlier, someone here knows about hospitality. Cafe Carmellini’s team balances refined, polished service, without the pretentious attitude. Like the atmosphere which is near flawless but yet comfortable, that DNA Cafe Carmellini transcends to the service. For a place that just opened, it’s operating like a well-oiled machine.
The menu at Cafe Carmellini is one that needs an explanation, and I think we asked about at least 9 dishes on the menu. For example, the artichoke isn’t just an artichoke, and our waiter knew each nuance down pat. I was also impressed how intuitive the service was based on the questions and profiles I gave on my preferences. I originally chose a Limoncello cocktail that would have been too sweet, and instead a Calvados Manhattan was recommended in its place. Everything sounded so good on the menu that for once my friend and I were the nightmare indecisive table. The service could not have been more patient when any normal person should have lost their s—.
It’s befitting that a restaurant with his own name on it is maybe his best yet. (No disrespect to Locanda Verde, which is right up there too).
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Q: Where is Cafe Carmellini located?
A: Cafe Carmellini is located on the first floor of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, which is at 250 Fifth Avenue at 28th Street.
Q: What are the hours of operation of Cafe Carmellini?
A: The hours of operation at Cafe Carmellini are as follows: