The Lion will Take a Bite Out of Your Wallet
For the second celebratory meal of my 30th birthday weekend, Warren, Courtney, Tim and I headed to The Lion. Tim, my brother, had been here before with some of his friends. He gave nothing but rave reviews, so naturally, my expectations were heightened.
I made reservations through OpenTable and added a note in the reservation that was for a birthday celebration. I'm always curious to see what special touches may be added!
When we arrived at the table, we were seated in the bar area. I thought that was a bit odd...doesn't this restaurant have a main dining area? Always the inquisitive diner, I asked the host. He stated that "our regulars know to request the dining room to guarantee the table." A bit taken back, I asked how a new diner would know this information. He shared that we know now and can make the adjustment on our next visit (the dining room was full at this point). Well, it should come as no surprise that this service pissed me off. I understand this is a a cool restaurant....I also understand that if I am paying the same high prices for a meal as everyone else, I should be treated as such. The "cool factor" is not enough to make me return to a restaurant. The food AND service need to be top notch. The reason I go into a tangent is because this was the first of many instances of poor service....the food was lovely, the service eh. Now to the food review...
Warren decided to start with a cocktail, The Lion's Paw, made with vodka, Japanese Yuzu limes, fresh cucumber juice and agave. I had a cocktail or two before dinner, so I was fine. The rest of us told our waiter we were fine with tap water. I did get the distinct impression he was disappointed we weren't getting cocktails to rack up the bill. I LOVE cocktails but sometimes I just want to take a break.
Warren loved the cocktail. I did not love the continuous attempts to up-sell us to order drinks. On a positive note, the bread was lovely. Yum!
When I heard the description of the featured soup, I knew I had to get it. Although it was a corn chowder, it was delicate, light and not overly creamy. It was delicious and I inhaled it!
Courtney, the ultimate gal pal, covertly ordered a bottle of Champagne for the table. What a class act! I was speechless! She said a beautiful toast and we enjoyed the bubbles.
Courtney ordered two oysters as a an appetizer. They were beautifully presented and she enjoyed them.
Tim ordered The Lion Burger "Special Blend" served with tomato, caramelized onion, pork belly, provolone, smoked cheddar and french fries. He really loved it. It was hard to snap a photo because he ate it at a fast speed!
Warren ordered the Long Island Duck, served with quinoa, fresh cherries and mustard greens. Courtney and I also ordered that and the Ricotta Gnudi with truffle creme sauce. The duck, while tender and cooked to the right temp, didn't have that much flavor. The quinoa didn't balance the duck enough - it could have used more acid/brightness to pop against the savory duck.
This pasta was my favorite dish BY FAR. If I ate the entire thing, I may have barfed. It was very very rich. The truffleness was out of this world. I love truffles and I've learned that they are best enjoyed in smaller quantities. After too much, you end up feeling absolutely disgusting. I know we made the right call in splitting an entree and the pasta.
While the food was generally great, I won't be coming back to The Lion. First impressions count for a lot, especially when there are so many restaurants that I have yet to discover in NYC! I'd rather take my chances trying a brand new place or go to a reliable venue than return somewhere that didn't have service to match the food. I'd note it wasn't just our server but also the host. It was more an attitude that permeated the experience. The nicest person I encountered was the bathroom attendant, who has the least glamorous job!