Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SD26 Review

We should have listened to the mixed reviews. Dinner at SD26 was one of the worst meals my family has had in a long time. SD26 is the reincarnated version of San Domenico, an Italian place that was previously located on Central Park South, where the restaurant Marea is now located.

The entryway to SD26 is a huge bar with lots of unoccupied space. You walk through a wide hallway until you reach the back of the restaurant, which opens up into a large dining room. How can a restaurant afford to have so much space and take advantage of every square foot to bring in the dollars? Well, it soon became clear — charge exorbitant prices for as little food as possible. If you're looking for value in your meal, head elsewhere.

In a first among restaurants I have been to, SD26's wine menu is electronic. While seemingly modern and fancy, it gave the staff here an excuse not to interact with its customers. Though a sommelier roamed the floor, she never came to our table. The wine was also not poured tableside, which I find inappropriate for any expensive restaurant. I'd like to say the service was uneven, but that would imply that it improved at some point — unfortunately it was evenly amateurish throughout the night. We even witnessed a server trying to bring main courses to the table next to us while the diners were still eating their appetizers.

The potato gnocchi with artichokes and calamaretti was a plate of blandness. The gnocchi, "just a squishy thing" according to my sister, tasted like raw potatoes with little else providing extra flavor.

Of everything we ate, the baby octopus is the only thing that I could possibly recommend. 

The whole wheat pappardelle with wild boar ragu gives you reason to prefer regular pasta over whole wheat; the texture was coarse and the whole dish lacked seasoning and salt.

Many of the dishes at SD26 are available as half portions. This was the full portion of grilled prawns over cannellini beans and rosemary: seven prawns for $42, small and laughable if it weren't so ridiculous. No one could possibly be full on seven bites of food. My dad left hungry and said, "They should be embarrassed. How can you say that's a dinner?"

The wild bass with zucchini and tomato was nothing special.

The sea urchin raviolini with a spicy scallop and cherry tomato ragu was overwhelmingly fishy. Sea urchin is a bossy flavor, but the ragu did little to tame it or add complexity to the dish. There was a need for something complementary in both taste and texture here.

When my sister received her plate of quail, we all questioned if this was actually the full portion. The waiter had suggested she get the full portion because the half portion was more of a tasting. This didn't seem to be much more than that with three nuggets of quail, a roll of frisee wrapped in prosciutto and a tiny quail egg. If you have to question if a dish is actually the full portion, then it's definitely too small.

When the waiter stopped by to ask how the meal was, we all paused and no one said a thing. After a beat long enough to indicate we had nothing truly good to say, we kind of nodded and said it was fine. We opted to skip dessert after this debacle of a dinner and left wondering whether we should have been more honest at just how much we disliked the meal.


  1. i am so glad that i canceled my reservation for restaurant week there last time! sounds pretty bad :)
    but i have to admit that it's kinda of fun to read a bad review that you get all fired up :)

  2. It seems as if the writer was in the wrong restaurant. Perhaps an Italian American restaurant with strong and accentuated flavors might have fit better for In the Nutshell. Our experience at SD26, as Italians, has always been strong and superlative. SD26 reflects the way Italians eat today, not the way they used to eat!