Wednesday, October 28, 2009
El*Ay*Si - Decent Start and Still Improving
El*Ay*Si - 47-38 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City NY 11101
7 Train to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue
I mentioned last week that the not-yet-open comfort food restaurant, El*Ay*Si was holding chef's tastings. Vicky, Eric Dan and I attended one last week with mixed results. We loved El*Ay*Si's cozy space and for the most part enjoyed the food, but they still have some kinks to work out, which is surely the reason they've been holding trial runs.
The restaurant space is narrow and on the small side but it manages to make you feel comfortable, cozy and warm. There's a nice, long wooden bar up front with a couple of high stools, followed by a few high tables and chairs sporadically placed around the room. Seating extends further back with a couple of intimate booths for parties of two and/or four as well as a large-ish communal table all the way in the back.
Lighting is dim with exposed bulbs, which I love, and the music is chill, giving off a speakeasy-ish vibe.
The tasting menu presented interesting options, which sort of dispelled our idea of "comfort food" but nonetheless, we were looking forward to trying everything. We tried to choose different things so we could sample most of the menu.
My favorite starter were the black-eyed pea cakes with chipotle mayo. They looked like crab cakes but tasted like a mix between hummus and refried beans. I liked them a lot, especially because they had some spice. Their already sharp flavor intensified further when I dipped them into chipotle mayo. Ay carramba, these cakes were spicy but very pleasant.
Two other apps we tried included the fry-bread beef tacos with guacamole and fire grilled tequila lime shrimp. Out of the two, I tasted the fry-bread taco and it was yummy. If you're wondering what "fry-bread" is, it's a crispy, fried tortilla shell, sort of like a chimichanga. I liked this component of the dish, although it was a bit hard to cut through. The beef that topped it was flavorful and like the black-eyed pea cakes, slightly spicy.
While I didn't try the shrimp, Vicky said that was very good and fresh. I'll take her word for it.
This is when we started to get a touch impatient, as we waited about a half hour for our entrees to arrive. When they finally came, we dug in but were a tad underwhelmed.
Eric and I both ordered the grilled striped bass, which looked excellent but needed more seasoning, especially salt. I liked the fresh herbs on top (rosemary and thyme) but a touch of salt and pepper would've gone a long way. The sides of French beans and pancetta were however smoky and delicious (and seasoned well).
I also tried Dan's fried chicken with caramelized apples. Again, pretty good but not awesome. The skin of the bird was nice and crunchy but needed something (salt again?) The side of caramelized apples was excellent and a creative idea--I'd definitely get a side order of it next time.
Vicky chose the dijon marinated flank steak with fingerling potatoes. I didn't have a bite but she said that the meat was tasty and cooked well.
There was one simple dessert and we sort of had to beg for it while waiting another half hour. Finally, it appeared looking gorgeous.
It was a berry parfait with whipped vanilla cream on top and a balsamic reduction on the bottom. The fruit was wonderfully fresh but the vanilla cream was too minty for my taste and just didn't seem to go with the balsamic reduction. I'd reconsider this combination to fit a more common palate.
Everyone at El*Ay*Si was pleasant, cordial and very laid back. While I could tell they were trying their best, they could benefit from more attention to detail. For example, when I dropped my fork (making noise), instead of grabbing me a new one right away, I had to get someone's attention several times. Overall, nothing to complain about but the service could use more polishing.
Costs are yet to be determined, as this tasting was complimentary.
El*Ay*Si is expected to officially open on November 1st.
Almost But Not Quite 2 Mmmms