Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not Quite Three Stars at Tre Stelle New York

By: Simone Press

Tre Stelle means three stars in Italian. However, this new sleek and shiny spot with that namesake, hugging Madison Square Park, isn't quite there yet. The well furnished interior features lots of wood and shiny leather seating and leads diners to believe they're about to be treated to the finest in culinary adventures for their palette. But then their first course arrives.
Interior Shot Courtesy of Tre Stelle

We began with a salad which, according to the menu included spinach, pear, parmigiano and walnuts, but ended up only having three of those four ingredients along with way too much salt. The next course was a bit more tasty and thankfully a little less heavy handed when it came to the salt. A hearty and crispy pile of well seasoned, flash fried calamari along with a lovely bowl of fresh marinara for dipping all served atop a rustic wood cutting board.
Salad Sans Walnuts
We also ordered an interesting and somewhat puzzling appetizer which was titled "Barbabietola Rossa Con Tonno E Cipolla In Coppa Martini" which Google Translate says means "Red Beet With Tuna And Onion In Martini Cup." And that was it. The dish featured tiny cubes of cooked beet coated in a light layer of flaked tuna salad and then slivers of onion. It was fresh but the combination a little befuddling. A kind-of, sort-of serving of the classic Italian dish steak carpaccio followed except the steak was not thinly sliced and it was all served sandwiched between piles and piles of chopped spinach. It needed acid. Lots of acid. And some salt too.
The pasta course was the most enjoyable. The gnocchi, which was served in a light, creamy pesto sauce along with diced potatoes and string beans, was delicious. It was well seasoned, delicate and the gnocchi were pillowy. The carbonara, was not overly heavy, featured just enough cheese and cream and was served smothered atop a pile of perfectly al dente spaghetti.
The main course was almost as puzzling as the beet appetizer. The tuna entree featured four mini filets of tuna that were breaded and then served rare alongside a completely tasteless basil emulsion. Then came the side of crispy vegetables with fresh ginger which lacked ginger flavor. The branzino was fresh but smothered in a gorgonzola sauce that made the fish hard to taste. Or appreciate. The side of broccoli was well cooked and seasoned. If I could have had two fillets of the branzino grilled fresh along with a side of brocolli dressed in a gorgonzola sauce that would have been more preferable.
For dessert, we had the cheesecake made with the famed Italian chocolate hazelnut spread nutella which was surprisingly delicious despite being served with a huge awkward crack in its center. I get rustic but this was just sloppy. And then there was the affogato. Delicious, cool sweet vanilla ice cream doused with a shot of steaming hot espresso and served along with some leftover plastic saran wrap.

The service was polite and the staff was attentive but there was a bit of a language barrier and the hostess admitted that she "didn't understand much English" after I asked her a question.

Although Tre Stelle is a few stars away from perfection - aren't we all?

Tre Stelle
39 W 24th Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 255-4644

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