Oh Yes to Food, Ono to Service

I had a friend from home in town this weekend (who was also with me at Pompano) who used to live in New York. This seemed like the perfect reason to cash in some of my AmEx In:NYC points. These points provide gift certificates to a host of restaurants and bars around the city...some of them my friend and I have already been to and are more run-of-the-mill, and some are very upscale and ones I probably wouldn't frequent except for a special occasion. Between having a gift certificate to use at a high-end spot and a good friend visiting, Ono fit the bill.

It goes without saying that Ono is definitely one of those uber-trendy Asian fusion restaurants. Its locale alone (both in the Hotel Gansevoort and in the Meat Packing District) is enough to make this a hot spot. On top of that, as soon as you walk in, you are accosted by trendiness. The lighting is dim, the decor is modern, the DJ is spinning house music, the bar is packed. Pure swank.

We were seated on the 2nd floor next to a huge window overlooking the Ono garden and the heart of the Meat Packing District...such a great vantage point. We started with the cocktail list and both were in the mood to try something unique. I ordered the Raspirinha...a Caipirinha with muddled raspberries, except they were out of raspberries so I got strawberry instead. Cachaca is a very different-tasting alcohol, definitely nothing I'm used to, but it was a really good drink. My friend ordered a cucumber margarita that could only be described as "refreshing."

We began to take a look over the menu and noticed that a majority of it was made up of small plates and sushi, with a few large plates at the bottom. We decided to share a few things (shocker!) and ordered the chicken and scallop robatas, a spider roll, and wasabi mashed potatoes. The robatas were two skewers of each meat served with five dipping sauces. The chicken and scallops were both cooked very well and had a great grilled flavor, but it was really the sauces that made these dishes. We sampled all five and really liked them all: shisho pesto, spicy plum miso, sesame mustard, scallion ponzu, and kimchee. The spider futomaki was delicious...the crab was so fresh and fried to perfection, and the spicy japanese mayo gave it an extra boost of flavor. And as generic a side item as it sounds, the wasabe mashed potatoes were fantastic. They were creamy and garlicky, with a wasabi flavor that wasn't too overpowering. Wasabi peas were mixed in, which gave it a surprising crunch.

I never go into restaurants like this expecting the service to be phenomenal. I think it's part of the job interview that the wait staff has to prove it can be snooty. That is unless the diners are dropping hundreds of dollars, in which case they are your best friend. When our waitress heard that we weren't ordering anything else (even though our tab was close to $100), she went very quickly from friendly to pushy. She left the bill with us immediately and proceeded to stop by three times to ask if it was ready. But, then when we were actually ready to pay, she was MIA and couldn't be bothered.

But, Miss Menu is never one to let mediocre service ruin an otherwise great experience. It was the perfect opportunity to try a great new place with a great old friend.

One quick Miss Menu pointer: If you are planning on dining at Ono and want to make your reservation through Open Table, be sure to go to the site directly, not linking from Ono's website. If you do it via Ono's site, it will tell you that dining points are not applicable to that meal. Sure it's only 100 points, but with all of the dining out I've been doing lately, I'm hoping to have another gift certificate heading my way!

at Hotel Gansevoort
18 9th Avenue
b/t 13th & Gansevoort Street
Menu Pages listing