Ai Fiori menu focuses on cuisine from the Italian and French Riviera. Chef and owner, Michael White, has created a beautiful space for a special evening of dining. When you walk onto the second floor restaurant at The Setai Hotel you are warmly greeted by staff and find yourself in the restaurant’s large bar and lounge. The restaurant makes the most of its location with many tables lining Fifth Avenue and 35th Street, but the restaurant is so beautifully designed that if you don’t happen to have a table by a window you need not worry.
The waitstaff encourage diners to enjoy a four course meal so I obliged. The four course prix fixe is $89 and includes the following courses: cominciare / pasta or risotto / pesce or carne / dolce. For those looking to truly indulge there is also a seven course chef’s tasting menu for $125. My colleague and I opted to forgo our usual cocktails and try Pernod Absynthe for the first time. If you enjoy anise you will enjoy this with notorious liquor with water.
My first plate was the Insalata di Pomidori (shown bottom left) which included heirloom tomatoes, stracciatella, basil pesto, balsamic dressing. It was a fantastic choice – light to eat and beautifully plated. For my next course, I selected a house favorite, Trofie Nero (shown bottom right), which included ligurian crustacean ragu, seppia, scallops, spiced mollica. While I enjoyed the plate, I preferred my colleagues choice (not shown below), Tortelli comprised of ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere cheese, red wine glaze. The cheese ravioli was smooth and creamy and the glaze was delicious.
Although service was generally superb, there was an obvious miscommunication, because it was nearly a half hour between when we finished our second plate and received our third. This did not bother me nor detract from our dinner since we had planned a leisurely meal, but it did strike me as an odd issue for a restaurant, which clearly encourages the four course meal. The third plate proved worth the wait, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Capesante, sea scallops, fennel, leeks, uova di trota, and shellfish sabayon.
Though I was quite content by the time I had finished the scallops, I had ordered the Torta di Olio for dessert – a ligurian olive oil cake, strawberry, pine nut, and rosemary yogurt gelato. It was served on two plates; the first the warmed cake with a side of strawberry jam and the second plate with the flavorful gelato, pine nuts and strawberries that complimented the the cake beautifully.
Ai Fiori is set up perfectly for a power dining dinner or to have a special meal with close friends and family. The formal atmosphere is not stuffy and enhances the dining experience. I would certainly come back again with colleagues if the opportunity presented itself – and I hope it does.
Ai Fiori’s dining menus are available online here. Reservations are strongly recommended.