By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
The idea is for the quintet to be "crafted as you wish," but when I asked if I could suggest vegetables, the waiter said, "No, the chef does that." A platter arrived bearing three cups, the center one filled with French onion soup capped by melted Gruyère cheese. The others contained, respectively, roasted corn and red peppers tossed with balsamic vinegar, as well as piquant, beet-soaked cubes of tofu. A cool cucumber-yogurt salad and roasted potato slices swathed in garlic aioli were arranged on either side of the cups. All vegetable variations vaguely satisfied, but small portions and lukewarm temperatures made it seem more relish tray than entrée. And strangely there were no greens. Why not serve the beautiful broccolini that accompanied the pork chop? I surely would have "crafted" things differently, but at least an attempt is being made to sate herbivores in a more ambitious manner than usual.
"Wish salad" brought a bright mingling of mint leaves, field greens, local baby bean sprouts, cashews, nubs of fresh pink litchi, and a sprinkling of litchi-mint vinaigrette. It was quite refreshing, and would have been absolutely sensational if tart green mango, the first item listed in the salad description, had been part of the equation. Instead there were three meager strips of the fruit in its ripe stage. It is incumbent upon the waiter to inform guests when the main component of their order isn't on hand.
Service was otherwise well executed, if not well tutored. Asked what came on a tropical fruit dessert plate, our server replied, "Bananas, strawberries ... melon ... and lots of others." For $16, those "others" better be more impressive than bananas. Let me add that I've never been a fan of the faded tie-dye uniforms the staff wears. Though I'm no stickler for formality, when paying $100 per dinner, I'd prefer the person serving me not be dressed like Joe Cocker at Woodstock.
It was a fairly humid evening, yet we asked to be seated outdoors. Wish's lushly foliated dining garden — canopied by tilted white canvas umbrellas and aglow with little lights wrapped around trees, an illuminated fountain, and cocktails concocted with electric ice cubes — is too seductive to resist. Plus the indoor portion of the restaurant, although nattily decorated, has always felt like a makeshift hotel lobby lounge — probably because it is situated in a hotel lobby, albeit partitioned off.
Fans are placed beside each outside table, which helps keep things breezy, but we were drinking lots of liquid just the same. We began with tap water served with ice cubes and then switched to bottled water served without. I kept drinking the regular stuff because it was so much colder. On my Wish list, for here and elsewhere, is that customers who order pricey bottles of water are shown the same respect as those who order a bottle of white wine — which means placing both in ice buckets. Maybe we should have stuck to the latter; the global but Napa-heavy list was chock full of respected labels at a predictable markup.
A mini loaf of pineapple-carrot cake could have been moister, but the flavor was there, and a transparent cream cheese glaze along with vanilla-infused crème fraîche on top made for a light, luscious frosting. Molten Valrhona chocolate cake, with a pistachio center, spiced berry compote, and pistachio ice cream, was the same old outfit newly accessorized. Peanut butter pie was more of a big candy bar than dessert. It sported dark chocolate on top and a pastry crust underneath a layer of puréed nut, with a pool of raspberry jam making a clever play on PB&J. Surprisingly a scoop of peanut butter gelato was of such poor texture that it crumbled on impact with a spoon.
"Surprisingly" partly because the pie costs $12; other desserts run $9 to $14, appetizers $17 to $24, nonveggie entrées $34 to $42. But the numerous shortcomings shocked more because of reputation: Wish is on just about everybody's short list of the Beach's best restaurants. As such, one doesn't expect crackly ice cream, overcooked pork, undercooked pheasant, green-mango-less mango salad, warm water, and uninformed waiters. Maybe it is a matter of resting on laurels, or perhaps the summer doldrums. Either way, it just goes to show that when you wish upon a star, or a restaurant, or a war, your dreams might not always come true.