Lunch at Ai Fiori, New York

The problem with having a really fantastic first course in a multi-course meal is that everything else would fade in comparison.

This is what happened to me when I had lunch at Ai Fiori at the Setai hotel in New York.

One bite of the spaghetti with blue crab, lemon, bottarga, and chilies, and I was smitten.

Take a second to imagine those flavors melding together in a bowl: perfectly al dente spaghetti, the delicately sweet meat from the blue crab, and the brininess and saltiness of bottarga (cured fish roe) all brightened by lemon and heightened by spicy chilies.

It was, I dare say, one of the best plates of spaghetti I’ve ever had.

And I consider myself a spaghetti connoisseur. After all, spaghetti is high on top of my list of most favorite things to eat in the entire world. It’s what I make when I’m happy, or heartbroken, or needing some comfort. It’s my go-to dish at home and in restaurants.

So after I slurped the spaghetti off my fork at Ai Fiori (I tried to slurp away as neatly as I could, as Ai Fiori is pretty fancy), the rest of my meal couldn’t even compare.

Even if the rest of the meal was no slouch.

Chef Michael White’s White Label Burger has won multiple accolades and raves – it’s made from a custom blend of chuck, brisket, short rib, and aged rib eye, served on buttery bread with bacon marmalade, cheese, pickles, and pomme dauphines

Pomme dauphines are crispy potato fritters. They’re little balls filled with mashed potatoes – the upscale version of tater tots.

The burger was very good, meaty and juicy. It was also pretty heavy; my friend Mich and I couldn’t finish our halves – but this is probably what we get for ordering pasta as a first course.

Mich and I had the two-course lunch plus one dessert each, which means we had six dishes for just the two of us. I am not in the habit of eating multiple courses at lunch (or eating at really expensive places at lunch, either) but I was in New York for just a few days and Mich and I haven’t seen each other in months, so we indulged ourselves at Ai Fiori. And it was definitely an indulgent meal.

We also tried the agnolotti, little braised veal parcels in a brown butter, sage, and black truffle sauce, and the teeniest tiniest broccoli sprouts.

We liked the salad Lyonnaise, with thick strips of lardon (Ai Fiori was very generous with bacon, which reminded me of my homemade tarte flambee topped with plenty of bacon as well), and a runny yolk from the poached egg blanketing the greens after we mixed everything together.

For dessert, we shared a lemon tart and a hazelnut creme pastry – both pleasant and enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.

It was both our first time at Ai Fiori but I’m pretty sure I’ll be coming back on my next trip to New York. Everything was very chic and pretty:

Yes, it’s also pricey, but The Setai is not exactly known for its affordability. And so is New York City, in general.

I’m certain that when I come back, I will be ordering this again:

Spaghetti with blue crab, I will see you again soon.

(Mich, I’ll see you again, too! It probably won’t be as fun eating by myself there…)

   

24 Responses to “Lunch at Ai Fiori, New York”

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    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted April 11, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Those pomme dauphines are definitely calling my name… as is that lemon tart. What a great meal. I love NYC!

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    Megan posted April 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

    The pasta, the agnolotti, the tater tots… wow! What an amazing meal.

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    Shannon posted April 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

    oh man, my stomach is growling looking at that pasta… yum! i definitely need to get to nyc more :)

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    honeywhatscooking posted April 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Jeez Bianca, that looks phenomenal. i’ve heard of the Setai, just passed it 2 days ago, but never heard of this place. i’m going to add it to my list… OMG! I’m drooling. I love eating at nice places. :-) I guess, once in a while.

    • Bianca Garcia replied April 11th, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      The pasta was just sooooo good and I’m definitely coming back to Ai Fiori just for that!

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    Michelle Collins posted April 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Looks like a great meal. Beautiful photos!

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    Daisy posted April 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    yep, that pasta looks absolutely incredible, and you my friend, know your spaghetti.

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    yummychunklet posted April 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Everything looks fantastic!

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    Simply Life posted April 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    wow! everything looks absolutely fantastic!

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    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted April 12, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Oh my gosh, I would be all over that spaghetti. Sounds like it would definitely be hard to beat!

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    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking posted April 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Well slide those fancy tater tots this way – they look irresistible! What a fabulous place to lunch!

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    CCU posted April 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    what a gourmet and delicious restaurant :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    Patty posted April 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Oh my goodness- what a lunchtime spread!!!!
    Now I’m hungry;-)
    You really snapped some very good photos-I never have the patience for taking pictures when I’m in a restaurant -too focused on eating, I guess ;-)

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    Kitchen Butterfly posted April 13, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Ok, definitely adding this to ‘places to visit when in NYC for the summer’. It all looks wonderful! That lemon tart….oh, I’m holding my breath!!!!!

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    Sues posted April 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

    This looks like the best lunch ever in the world!! :)

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    Molly Galler posted April 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Look at that beautiful lemon tart!

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    Monica posted April 14, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Geez – I cannot stop looking at that pasta! : ) It looks incredible and quite possibly trumps those desserts (as great as they look!).

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    Natalie posted April 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Everything looks delicious!! Those potato balls and lemon tart, wow!

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    Lawyer Loves Lunch posted April 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Yay! I love that you guys tried a bunch of things to really get a feel for the place. The fancy potato tots look delicious but you’re right, the spaghetti sounds fantastic (mmm, crab) :)

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    Joanne posted April 16, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Actually prix fixe menus at lunch are the way to go in NYC because you get the same amount of food as dinner but for less money! When I do that, I tend to just skip dinner though. :P Sounds like an amazing first course!

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    Meghan posted April 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    What a beautiful lunch!

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    grace posted April 18, 2013 at 9:19 am

    you seem to be a connoisseur of many things! :) in this case, i have to agree with your sentiments–that pasta dish looks spectacular!

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    cassie posted April 19, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    You were in my neck of the woods. I LOVE Ai Fiori. I recently went for a business lunch and it was amazing. The spaghetti is SUPERB.

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    Lauren posted April 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    My sister and I have rescheduled lunch here twice now! It’s hard to find a good time to take a 2+ hour leisurely lunch on a weekday.. but after seeing your pics I’ve realized this must be made a priority! The crab spaghetti looks amazing. If you haven’t already, you need to try Del Posto’s version of this!

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