Ai Fiori is actually Marea's sister restaurant. In 2012, Zagat rated it NYC's Best New Restaurant and it also recently earned one Michelin star. I checked OpenTable about a week before that date we wanted, and I was able to make a reservation for four people at 8:30pm.
Located inside the Setai hotel, it is contemporary in style with a business type of air to it. The menu is organized into four different categories: per cominciare, pasta e risotto, pesce, and carne. You can order à la carte or you can get the four course prix fixe for $89. We decided that the women would order just one main course each while the men would order the four course prix fixe, which the women would help share. This ended up working out just perfectly so that everyone was satisfied and full.
After we finished ordering, we were offered a selection of three different breads: an olive bread, a sourdough bread, and a whole grain bread. On the table we had a lightly salted butter and olive oil. The bread wasn't warm, but it was light and fragrant. The whole grain bread was my favorite, but all were good.
We were then served a shot of carrot cumin soup with lime foam (not pictured). It was a nice combination of hot and cold. The warm earthy tones of the soup also contrasted the high acid notes of the mousse. It was pleasant, but not amazing. Normally, or at least in my opinion, the amuse bouche is when the chef can show off his talent; it's supposed to have a wow factor. This did not. We gave it a 6.5 out of 10. Not bad, but definitely not setting our expectations very high.
We did also order drinks, but I'm not reviewing them here because I don't remember exactly what was ordered; I was too busy taking notes on the food. My sister and T. both ordered cocktails, and B. and I split a lovely glass of white wine (Châteauneuf-du-Pape).
Overall we gave the restaurant a 7.5 out of 10. The service was decent. There were no frills, no extras, no lingering. It was friendly, but not above and beyond. The food was good, but for the price and reputation, I was surprised to see something fail the way that the lobster did. It is always disappointing to enjoy everything in a meal and then have one dish mar the experience. I would be happy to come back, but I won't go out of my way for it; there are too many good restaurants in New York that I still have to try.
400 5th Avenue
Setai Hotel - 2nd level
New York, NY 10018