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One if by Land, Two if by Sea: Where to Find New York’s Cheesiest

For those of you looking for the perfect serious ultra-romantic date spot, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is your Oz; however, if you happen to laugh openly at all things cheesy and get uncomfortable with other peoples’ PDA, ‘New York’s Most Romantic Restaurant’ will either irritate you to no end or have you in stitches (the latter for me). This New York bastion of all things romance takes it’s task very seriously with long-stick candles on every table, a live jazz duo softly tinkling away, white roses, plush carpets, and plenty of private tables for lovebirds.

Situated in what was once Aaron Burr’s carriage house, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is all about atmosphere. Pushing through a creaky door, you’re transported to a cross between old New York glamour and the set of Beauty & the Beast: The Musical. I could just about imagine Belle and her burly Beast sweeping across the old wooden floors in their finest. The front area houses the jazz duo and the bar, all plush red velvet, mahogany, candlelight, and backlit bottles of expensive scotch. The middle room is perhaps the most iconic room of One if by Land, Two if by Sea with a luscious array of traditional chandeliers, a respectable smattering of red velvet, and bouquets upon bouquets of roses. Up a slightly creaky staircase is the more intimate ‘back room’ with private corner tables ideal for nuzzling lovebirds. Whether or not you actually appreciate the nuzzling is your decision; I was personally put off my appetizer by the hideous noises made by the couple ‘next door’ aggressively making out.

There are two menus offered for dinner, a $78 3-course prix fixe and a $105 Chef’s tasting (also offered at $160 with wine pairings). Unwilling to drop $105 per person and incapable of stomaching five incredibly rich courses (foie gras, beef wellington, poached lobster and so forth), my boyfriend and I opted for the cheaper 3-course option. We started with the duck terrine and the octopus a la plancha. Unfortunately, the only really terrible part of the evening was one of the first things I ate: the duck terrine. It was just awful – flavorless, topped with half an inch of ‘white wine gelee’ (which freakishly mimicked gummy lard), and texturally distracting. The octopus though was just the opposite, bursting with fresh Mediterranean flavors.

The second course brought the Beef Wellington and the roasted rack of lamb. The Beef Wellington was sensuous and by far the highlight of the meal; it was cooked just past bloody and wrapped in not only a thin flaky pastry but also a luscious foie gras sabayon. The rack of lamb was well-cooked with just a bit too much fat around the edges for my tastes; it was earthy and mellow with braised black kale, lotus root, eggplant, and a sweet fig jus. The desserts were, as a course, the most exceptional. We opted for the Gianduja Mousse and the Peanut Butter Fondant Cake, both of which were unusual and nostalgic of cozy home-cooked desserts. The Gianduja Mousse was smooth and creamy with a side of banana bread ice cream and a few caramelized bananas. The peanut butter fondant cake was a study in contrasting textures with a dense cake, crispy peanut brittle, a fairly nondescript yet bouncy root beer gel, and luxurious dulce de leche.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea is certainly a niche dining experience. It is over-the-top in pretty much every way and difficult to take seriously if you’re as cynical as I am. However, for those looking for the most intensely romantic restaurant, One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a classic and ritzy option. Two notes though: 1) don’t come here just for the food, for there are far better food-centric restaurants in the price range (Annisa, Colicchio & Sons, Perilla), and 2) don’t come with a friend, you’ll just feel awkward.

Perfect For: first dates, last dates, engagement dates, any and all dates. oh, and treating your girlfriend (or boyfriend, for that matter.)

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