Alto 11 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 is a modern space with a corporate, midtown feel and Italian menu. There are two floors: the lower dining room, where we were seated, has lower ceilings which I wasn’t too happy about. Our waiter was super jolly at first; Lon likened him to a game show host, but, throughout the night he kind of oscillated between exuberant and dismayed.  Like our waiter, the food also oscillated, between good and mediocre.

There’s a Chef’s Tasting Menu (7 courses) for $130, a four course for $84, and a la carte choices. I like that the four course allows you to choose from the a la carte menu. Rachel, Brandon, (congrats to the newly engaged couple!) and I did the four course while Lon ordered a la carte.

Soon, a Salmon Crudo amuse with green olive arrived, a nice light start. Then, four choices of bread were offered, the sourdough being the best.  Immediately after our bottle of Gruner Veltliner Kofererhof Valle Isarco 2007 was poured.

salmon crudo amuse

The only reason I chose the whole grain polenta appetizer was because it was served with cock’s comb and pig trotter. I have never had cock’s comb before and I am always eager to try anything new. Unfortunately, it was pretty anti-climactic, not offering much flavor; just a soft, chewy texture in a pool of saucy soft polenta.

Polenta Integrale con Cresti di Gallo

Lon’s Amberjack Crudo was fresh as expected, and brightened by caviar; nothing remarkable.

Amberjack Crudo

I got a taste of Rachel’s Warm Mushroom Soup, which was elegant and velvety. Brandon’s scallops looked beautifully plump with a nice sear.

warm mushroom soup Seared Scallops

Curiosity caught me again via Chestnut Gnocchi. These were soft and gently sweet, with that hint of earthiness. I really liked the slices of chestnut that floated in the rich sauce with rabbit (if I remember correctly, not 100% sure now), some chard, and a few slices of cheese.

Chestnut Gnocchi

Lon’s Meat Tortellini with Proscuitto, Tomato, and Cream was a heavenly rich dish where each flavor was concentrated into each piece. Lon wiped the plate clean of sauce with some sourdough bread.

Tortellini con Proscuitto

Rachel and Brandon ordered Risotto and Garganelli, also enjoying their plates. We felt that the pasta course was their most impressive, where the flavors really popped.

Risotto Garganelli al Nero di Seppia all'Amatriciana

For the mains, Rachel and I both ordered Creekstone Farm Sirloin. It was actually a little tendonous, mildly dry, and just not a very flavorful piece of beef, though it looked perfectly cooked. The Hen of the Woods Mushrooms on steroids were stealing the show.

Creekstone Farm Sirloin

Lon’s Duck Breast did have that great duck-y flavor. (Was it Tom Colicchio that said something was duck-y on Top Chef?) The cotechino (duck sausage) was boring, but the huckleberry jus worked nicely.

Duck Brest, lentils, and duck contechino

Brandon’s Sablefish was rich and tender, very nicely done.

Black Cod

For dessert, Rachel and I both went for the Bomboloni. (I guess we have similar taste… actually, back in HS we started a club together called F.A.T.: Food Appreciation Team, apparently we’re still members.) We thought the doughnuts were supposed to be filled with Zabaglione, but they were empty and actually too yeasty, The chocolate sauce also looked clumpy.


Lon was the only one who didn’t order the four course, which includes dessert, but our waiter decided to bring him their signature dessert on the house, which was incredibly nice of him. The Torrone is a piemontese nougat semifreddo, on a hazelnut crust, with a warm chocolate sauce they pour on at the table, which solidifies into a shell. It’s amazing: nutty and creamy, decadent, but refined, and Rachel said it just felt Italian. What a great way to describe it. Winner!


Brandon enjoyed a Panna Cotta and we were all too stuffed to eat the Mignardises, which didn’t look that interesting and no one told us what they were.

Panna Cotta al Zucchero Scuro Mignardises

Overall, I have to question how Alto received two Michelin Stars. It’s not that good. But, for $84, the four course can be amazing if you choose the right dishes. Some dishes just aren’t that great and the lower dining room feels like we got stuck in a fancy basement lounge.

posted by jessica at 09:34 AM Filed under Italian, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.