Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cutting Coconut with a Chain Saw

Coconut Layer Cake - Smith and Wollensky
Smith and Wollensky

Wine and steak: two things Smith and Wollensky do right.

Everything else: major room for improvement.

First a rant from Vodka: as someone who has a tendency to arrive early in life, she despises when restaurant policy forbids her from occupying her reserved table until the rest of her party arrives.  She understands the rationale when the establishment, say, does not take reservations, or when the dining room is full.  But when Vodka arrives at Smith and Wollensky fifteen minutes early for her and Ginger's reservation, the dining room is a ghost town.  Yet despite Vodka's protests, the host insists she sit at the bar until the rest of her party arrives.  UNCOOL, Smith and Wollensky.  Major demerit.
Time to Drown My Frustration in Wine
However, we are not at Smith and Wollensky merely so Vodka can complain about the seating policy.  We are here to try Anne Burrell's chosen LOCAL FAVORITE dish, the coconut layer cake.  Full disclosure: neither of us particularly like coconut, but we'll scarf down anything in the name of Food Network list completion.
Our Wine Glasses are Procreating
Figuring that the gods of Smith and Wollensky would not look kindly upon us trying to order only dessert at their steakhouse, we go during Restaurant Week, when the coconut layer cake is thankfully available as a prix fixe dessert option.  It is only after the waiter distributes the two versions of the menu - the real menu (secure in a heavy wood picture frame and glass) and the Restaurant Week menu (a miniscule piece of paper that looks like it was used as cow's cud) - that we begin to feel like third-class citizens.
Apparently, We Have a Seat in Coach
Drowning our sudden inferiority in a bottle of wine ("Roaring Meg."  If only one of us were named 'Meg'), we dig into the bread basket and appetizers (split pea soup, gazpacho, and Caesar salad), all of which have a distinct aroma of "blah."  Having been ruined by the delectability of the Scarpetta bread basket for life, this one pales in comparison.
All Together Now: Meh
The split pea soup (which Ginger insists on eating despite the 90-degree outside temperature, as she is suddenly a Ph.D. in biology who knows how to "regulate" her internal thermometer) features identical croutons as those featured on the Caesar Salad (which consists of a depressing display of limp greenery), and the croutons might as well have been pulled from a Pepperidge Farm box for their level of originality.
This Salad Looks a Bit Long in the Tooth
The split pea soup is tasty, but, in Ginger's expert opinion, split pea soup is hard to mess up.  Our guest orders the gazpacho, a food neither Ginger nor Vodka is crazy about as a concept.  He remarks that the gazpacho is not cold enough (or perhaps this is Ginger's comment after tasting with boiled peas in her mouth).  Otherwise, the gazpacho is very red and too smooth.
As Opposed to Very Green and Smeary
Eventually, our steaks (the only Restaurant Week option: filet mignon) arrive, and true to reputation, they are delicious.  While we are far from vegetarians, we are also not much of steak eaters, but we have to admit that these hunks of meat are more satisfying than most.
Meat Madness
Thickly sliced, they crunch on the outside and ooze with each stab of the knife, and they are perfectly complemented by the house steak sauce.  These filets could almost make us into regular steak eaters.
The Better to Eat You With, My Dear
And then, in a matter of seconds, Smith and Wollensky banishes the memory of these scrumptious steaks with the most displeasing slices of coconut layer cake known to man.

As previously stated, we are not big into coconut, more due to the texture than the flavor.  However, the coconut itself is far from the main issue with this cake.

The larger problem is that the plates look like they were assembled by three-year-olds.
Cake Cutting with a Fisher Price Knife
Uneven slabs of cake, which we're pretty sure were sliced with a chain saw, lay on the plates - far from centered and even further from appealing.  They are spread with a greenish yellow goo that has the distinct look of something that could be found on a Nickelodeon game show.
You've Been Slimed
The cakes in front of us are so absurdly opposite of the masterpieces of pastry presented on both Best Thing I Ever Ate and on the display tray at the front of the restaurant that it's almost laughable.  Almost.

We understand that Restaurant Week is, for the most part, a joke in New York -- that restaurants hardly ever deliver the same quality to the Restaurant Week crowd that they do on a non-discount basis, but this is pathetic.  Our plates are reminiscent of the carelessly hacked slabs of cake available on the dessert counter in a college cafeteria, the ones that remind you that are are oh-so-far from your mother's loving kitchen.  It is just sad.

As if all of this visionary displeasure weren't bad enough, there is nary a scoop of ice cream to be found with this slab of cake.  As the Restaurant Week menu blatantly states, the coconut layer cake is served "WITH VANILLA ICE CREAM."  Except ours, which for unknown reasons features lime green slime instead of refreshing ice cream.

The entire dessert is a visual mess of epic proportions.
Not to Mention Our Initial Issue with the Slathering of Coconut
Tasting this monstrosity, we find that the goo is some sort of passion fruit-flavored disaster (which Ginger does not find any more offensive than the cake itself, but which makes Vodka want to throw the whole thing at her host friend).  The flavor of the cake (barring the goo) is not bad, but it is also far from good, far from enticing, and so very, very far from the best thing we have ever eaten.  (Even our esteemed guest, who enjoys coconut, is underwhelmed by the flavor and equally appalled by the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am presentation).

Perhaps the whole thing could have been saved by our promised scoops of vanilla ice cream.  But unfortunately, it seems Smith and Wollensky is too busy sharpening their chain saws and hacking through cake to deliver on what is promised to their (third-class Restaurant Week) patrons.

We knew we never liked coconut.

Smith and Wollensky's Coconut Layer Cake: 2 stars

1 comment:

  1. There's nothing wrong w/having soup during a hot summer ;) I love coconut anything and it sucks that the coconut cake you had turned out crappy! I definitely won't be going to Smith and Wollensky for my coconut fix!