I had not yet dined at Plate. It’s only a few minutes from me but never came on my radar. Making it’s home on the ground floor on 63rd Street, just east of Holmes, there is a parking garage available, behind it which makes it convenient for guests. I spent little time indoors, only observing from the host stand, but it was empty upon my arrival at 5:15pm on a Tuesday. It was expansive and bright yet lacked any real design or personality. I was happy I was dining outdoors as the ambiance lacked the warm and inviting feel I was hoping for.
I made my reservation via Open Table and the option for seating was ‘Standard’ or ‘High Top’ but no mention of patio, which I had seen as an option before. Perhaps they were booked up? I requested outdoor seating when I arrived. “We have some guests that have requested the patio this evening, let me check for you.” as the host walked away. Seeing many open tables outside, I didn’t think it would be an issue and I was right. I was seated promptly and was one of only three tables taken up at that time. However, it took a little over 10 minutes for anyone to greet me or bring water. When the server did, he was gracious and knowledgeable. Tim brought me two glasses of house white ($5) as Happy Hour was at this point, almost ending. I also put in an order for the Arancini and Truffle Fries on the Happy Hour Menu. The wine arrived as my friend Julie did and our dishes followed shortly after.
The Arancini ($6), four lightly fried cacio e pepe risotto balls in a lemon cream sauce did not disappoint. I had read in previous reviews that they lacked flavor but I found them perfectly seasoned and the lemon and arugula lifted them up as did the pickled fennel in the dish. If I hadn’t been sharing, I could have easily inhaled all four. The Truffle Fries ($7) were my true test. I fancy myself a fry connoisseur, what would these be like? I factor in crispness, fluffy and potato-filled in the middle, well-seasoned – these fries hit every note. The truffle was subtle and not at all over-powering. These shoestring fries were tossed in a Parmesan-truffle mix with fresh parsley and served with a house-made aioli. They were hot and crispy, fluffy and not over-cooked. Five out of Five Truffles for these – perfection.
The reason for our visit though, was dinner so even though I was starched-out, we opted for the Prix Fixe 3 course meal. For $35 a person, you have your choice of a cold antipasti, pasta entrée and choice of a dessert. Tim was wonderful and walked us through our options. He had the menu memorized and told us about the options in an animated, passionate way that got me excited for what was to come. For the cold antipasti, I chose the Beef Carpaccio – beef tenderloin, pickled fennel, arugula and pecorino. Julie chose the Heirloom Tomato Salad with basil oil, aged sherry vinegar, mache, maldon salt. Normally at $14 and $16 respectively, I wondered if we would be getting the full portion of either of these. Her dish was colorful and she said, flavorful. It was a large portion and was well-seasoned with the dressing. Mine, was more arugula then carpaccio. I moved the greens around to find my tenderloin only to see three small pieces with seven or so large slices of Parmesan hidden under the salad. I think I finished that dish in under two minutes. The flavor was there and what I tasted was really good, but I was a bit disappointed to see it wasn’t a little more substantial. I will say, I dislike greatly the giant portions restaurants in America serve. I’m not for a never-ending pasta bowl, but there has to be a balance. Fine for this Prix Fixe but if that was the serving on the $16 dish, I’d be more disappointed.
Our Prix Fixe comes with pasta, though for a fee, you can upgrade to a traditional entree. Our server Tim had told us that the pasta is made fresh in-house so we had to try it. Julie ordered the arrabiatta ($17) -housemade fusilli, spicy pomodoro, fresh mozzarella, basil. I decided to mix it up. I love gnocchi but the dish ($23) was to come with a beef brodo and meatballs, that I did not want. I asked if I could have the sauce from the ravioli which was a Parmesan brodo with chili oil and they happily made that accommodation. Julie’s dish came out and looked like a dish you might make at home if you’re in a hurry and need to get dinner on the table for the kids. The sauce was sparse so the color of the noodles showed through creating a light red pigment among the pale bowl of noodles. At the end of the day, I thought it tasted a bit bland, but Julie enjoyed it and that’s what matters. The sear and texture on the gnocchi were nailed but the sauce was just OK. I wanted more of that Parmesan flavor but the chili oil overpowered it and while not overly spicy, the flavor fell flat and left me looking for more. It needed some acid to lift it but there was none to be had. To enjoy with dinner, we ordered a glass of the Talley Vineyards Chardonnay, Central Coast, CA ($13). If you like thick, buttery chardonnay, you will love this one. It is supple and creamy with vanilla and pear but had a nice citrus finish.
Lastly, to the dessert course. I’m not guilty of having a sweet tooth, but this dessert list made me a believer. From a Salted Caramel Budino to Panna Cotta – the selections were impressive. A special that evening was the Tiramisu which Julie ordered. I opted for the Chocolate ($12), a dark chocolate mousse with raspberry compote, ganache, luxardo glaze, chocolate soil and a chocolate tuile. Pastry chef Nicole Vavra, formerly of Stock Hill and Gram & Dun, has created something here. My chocolate globe was brought out and I was told it was to be cracked to get the mousse inside. Tim did that for me, which, I think is part of the magic for the guest. That disappointment was quickly forgotten as I had my first bite. My eyes-widened. The mousse was perfection. Light and creamy with a touch of the raspberry compote to lift it was delicious. Somehow, as full as I was, I ate the entire thing. The chocolate soil added a nice crunch and the tuile tasted like an Oreo which was enjoyable. Julie’s tiramisu did not come traditionally presented but rather in roll form. She said it was incredibly good and even boxed it up to take home. We ended on a very happy (and full) note.
All said and done, the value for the meal was good. With the happy hour we indulged in our bill came to $67 split down the middle before the tip. For three courses, two pre-dinner snacks and two glasses of wine – that’s not bad AT all. It’s a great value for what you get. The L-shaped patio was distanced, quiet and comfortable. The parking garage I can see being a god-send in the winter months.
I give Plate 3.5/5 spoons because of the value and those fries. Those fries, man. I haven’t tried absolutely everything yet but this is my rating based on my meal and my experience. Go ahead with my notes in mind and let me know what you think of Plate. When comparing their pasta to the like of Farina (which actually comes at a less expensive price point), there’s no contest. However, Plate’s Happy Hour is wonderful and I appreciated the menu for what it was. For $35 a person, I would say it’s a pretty great deal and you can’t complain about that.