Living in the city can be both a blessing and a curse. You have access to all kinds of top-notch restaurants yet the search for a fun Friday/Saturday night can be incredibly tedious. These two nights bring out two of the worst kinds of diners: tourists and people who feel that it’s mandatory to go out. The first group can be benign in small doses. The latter medicates the week’s tension with 3 too many mojitos (by the way bartenders don’t like making these, they will say they’re out of mint, and they aren’t appropriate unless in a Mexican or Cuban place.) You want to be around people who want to have fun and not ones who complain about work. When you live in the city, utilize your ability to try a new place on a night when the majority of people can’t. Your experience will be miles better.
I booked a 9:30pm table Saturday well in advance to try the Major Food Group’s meatpacking restaurant serving coastal Italian food. The building is a glass cube underneath the High Line. While the landscape of pastels (the plates are Insta-worthy) and large ferns were appropriate for the theme, I felt confused. The ornate multi-color chandeliers attempted to link the modern architecture to the old world coastal idea. It’s like they took the opportunity to be in such a beautifully crafted building yet didn’t quite curate the food to meet the surroundings. I could imagine a more modern or high-end theme fitting more seamlessly.
Now I was sitting on a rather small two-top (borderline cocktail table where the waiter played musical chairs with the plates) with the bar area directly to my right and a lingering group of drunken woo-woo club girls who must have shoe-horned themselves into their too short Leger style dresses. I figured they were resting their little piggies from their overgrown pumps ready to have ‘a night out.’ Between the parrot-like cackling from my left and the relentless encroaching of the bar patrons to my right who were literally on my table (at fart-level) I felt more claustrophobic than the 6 train at rush hour. Waiter, please, wine.
The cecina is an Italian version of make your own taco. I selected the Calabrian tuna for the filling which was spicy and very fresh and I enjoyed the hands-on nature of the dish. This was followed with the octopus spiedini. Two skewers of nugget sized octopus chunks with grilled vegetables. It was surprisingly soft and flavorful however for two people we both ended up with so little. Many people exclaim how affordable this menu is in comparison to other of the Major Food Groups’ restaurants but I question if the prices are lower because the portioning is scaled down. The spaghetti blue crab was something to miss. Finding a non-surge Uber in the rain is easier than spotting the actual blue crab in the pasta. At this level you should expect visibly pronounced amounts of crab. The whole grilled porgy was nothing to talk about. My date claimed we had made something comparable at home. We did not stay for dessert.
In the midst of all this, the waiter empathized with us and comped a round of wine. The onslaught of such a busy night took its toll on the ambiance and the quality of the food. Moral of the story is to support your neighborhood establishments or take on your next cooking challenge on those busy nights and save your night out for another night (Sunday is mine). Your dining neighbors will be more normal and your food will be prepared with a less stressed kitchen. The other Major Food Group restaurants are very good but Santina does not shine as bright.
Price: $85/person (inclusive of tax/tip)
Recommended Meal: Tuna cecina, octopus speidini
Reservations: Highly recommended
Hours: M-F 7:30-10:30, 11:30-2:30; Sat-Sun 10:00am-3:00pm; M-Sun 5:30pm-12am
Featured Image Via Bloomberg