First Impressions: Amada

Amada NYC entranceBack story: Amada is the 15th restaurant in chef Jose Garces’s Garces Group; the others are primarily in Philadelphia (including the original Amada, Garces’s first establishment). According to his bio, Garces “is a 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic award and one of only a few chefs in the country to hold the coveted title of Iron Chef.”

Amada NYC barThe vibe: The space is massive, seating around 250, divided up with partitions that—along with the lack of windows and the black, unfinished ceiling—make the restaurant feel a lot like a soundstage. (The only windows besides ones at the front door were in the tiny room called Amadita, which will serve as a café during the day.) While the noise in the entrance/bar area is deafening, it calms down as you move toward the back, near the open kitchen. There are plans for outdoor seating for 60.

Amada NYC interior1Amada NYC kitchenMenu: It, too, is huge—a real two-hander. I was prepared to test it on the Spanish classics (such as tortilla and patatas bravas), but Adam was feeling more adventurous. We ordered the ham croquettes; chanquetes (tiny deep-fried fish served with bacalao and a runny egg); the vegetarian flatbread; grilled razor clams; roasted cauliflower; English peas; and Parmesan artichokes.

Amada dinner menuGold star: For a restaurant open less than a week—and especially of this size—Amada was remarkably well-run. The servers aren’t polished (one runner announced, “We got here the cauliflower,” while another referred to us as “gentlemens”), but it all worked smoothly.

Room for improvement: That cauliflower was good, livened up with pickled mustard seeds; and the chanquetes (above) looked and tasted great, although the menu oddly doesn’t mention the egg. Everything else fell flat. Croquettes are all about the contrast between the crispy exterior and the fluffy potato inside; Amada’s are filled not with potato but with a meaty ham goop. The flatbread was under a blanket of cheese so thick and bland it might as well have been Monterey Jack. The razor clams were weirdly big and entirely without flavor; Adam wouldn’t let go of the idea that they must have come from Sysco. The peas tasted like peas, which seemed novel at that point in the meal, but the bed of potato purée was saturated with cornstarch. And when the Vegetables section of a menu says “Parmesan artichokes,” I’m not expecting a few pieces of artichoke heart submerged in a dish of milky cream sauce. I think they were artichoke; they could’ve been anything. Perhaps we ordered unluckily, or maybe it was an off night.

Anything else? I’m not necessarily a huge snob about wine glasses but I do think if you spend $22 or $24 on a glass of red wine—Tribeca Citizen was paying for the meal—it shouldn’t be in a narrow glass meant for white wine. (Perhaps the larger glasses were all being used for the fishbowl gin-and-tonics.) Also, and Amada is far from the only restaurant guilty of this, it drives me nuts when I call a restaurant to confirm the reservation and I have to sit through a long outgoing message detailing the hours, location, website, and so forth. Get a dedicated line or list the menu options first. P.S. The outgoing message says Amada is open for lunch, but the website says it’s only open for dinner at this point.

Contact: Amada is at 250 Vesey, on the north side of Brookfield Place; 212-542-8947; newyork.amadarestaurant.com.

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2 Comments

  1. I thought it was pretty good when I went last Tuesday. I saw Chef Garces in the kitchen running quality control on the dishes coming out. Obviously he won’t be there every night with 15 or so restaurants, but it is nice to see him there to get it up and running smoothly. Has the potential to turn into a place that is crowded every night based on all of the businesses and apartments in the area.

  2. Definitely had a different experience. Food was awfully good… not perfect but definitely better than mentioned above in Erik’s review. I guess we’ll find out which experience is the norm.

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