Ignore the hype. Save yourself $200 and just ignore the hype. Tony and Marisa May’s follow-up to traditional Italian favorite San Domenico is a bloody disaster. Everything from the decor to the value to the service to the clientele to even the quality of the food is somehow totally disappointing. Let me enumerate the ways for you:
Decor: There is something bizarre about the look of SD26. It is cold, modern, and yet completely boring all at the same time. The front lounge area has far too much open space; it looks under-furnished and cheaply done. The back restaurant room is a sterile white cavern with bizarre massive dangling balls of thread. Are they trying to entice mice?
Service: Considering entrees range from $30-$50, the service at SD26 should be white-gloved and perfection. Quite to the contrary, both hostesses (yes, there are two to get through before you’re seated) were completely unhelpful and only seated us when 20min after our 9:30 reservation, we demanded to be led to our table immediately (or else.) Our waiter was fine (although sans personality) until he handed us a bill that was almost exactly double what we should pay and had none of the items we ordered. In a restaurant of this ilk, should it not be BASIC for patrons to at least get their own bill?
Food: The food was pretty good. Was it what I expected? Did it totally blow me away? Was it worth the exorbitant prices? No, absolutely not. But, all in all, the menu was both inspired and inspiring, and the food was mostly tasty. The chitarra pasta (featured on the website) was well-cooked, well-seasoned, and all-in-all a successful dish. Yes, the sauce was a bit ordinary, but I enjoyed the satisfying heartiness of the pasta. The lamb chops were the highlight of the meal, served at the right temperature with a truly delicious mint couscous (yum). My boyfriend opted for the pork belly salumeria, which was served in thin strips reminiscent of lard. The strips tasted pretty good but looked very unappetizing. The braised beef cheeks in red wine reduction sounded incredible, yet were dried out and really plain.
Scene: The wine bar & lounge in the front were crowded with what looked to be middle age singles and groups of after-work drinks taking advantage of the wine vending machine (admittedly, pretty freaking cool). The restaurant was packed with pseudo-outer borough could-be-mafia types flashing their bling bling and loudly ordering every and all expensive items on the menu. Needless to say, younger by 15 years than the average table and noticeably quieter, my boyfriend and I felt a bit out of place…
All in all, SD26 is over-the-top in all the wrong ways and falls short where it really needs to succeed. The bread and butter of a successful restaurant, good food and good service, were absent. The unbelievably high prices for such a lackluster experience have me betting that once the hype dies, SD26 will be hurting badly for business.