Ravel Hotel
808 Queens Plaza South
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 289-6101

It's getting cold and the opportunities to enjoy an outside drink, even on a heated roof with a view that puts Manhattan establishments to shame, are dwindling. With that in mind, Myna and I raced over to Penthouse 808, the rooftop Asian fusion restaurant on the top floor of Long Island City's Ravel Hotel. The Ravel sits on the northern, more industrial end of Long Island City, close to the Queensboro Bridge (sorry, Ed, I just can't say it). It's hardly a cute area and it's eerily deserted at night. But being a quick, ten minute walk from the F train means that your only excuse for not being willing to make the trip is that you're either lazy or a coward. The Ravel is one of the new, hip hotels catering to trendy twenty-something out-of-towners who you will find mingling downstairs in the lounge enjoying a glass of wine from one of the dozen bottles available from the wine vending machines. $12 a glass, served in Reidels. We turned the corner from them and headed to the elevator, hit the top button, and walked out into the restaurant, a loud, busy, dark place completely nothing like the surrounding empty area. Well... other than the dark.

While Myna was led to a table, I ran outside to grab a few photos while no one was mingling. I imagine that in the summer this place is packed. Tonight, although a dozen or so people were outside drinking and hanging out, everyone was eating indoors. The inside, with its leather sofa booths and solarium glass ceiling, was very cool. Our rickety table was an annoying pain in the ass, but if, as our waitress told us, they plan to renovate in two months anyway, I imagine that they'll be soon be sending it to the big Ikea in the sky. Speaking of our waitress, she was very friendly, prompt, was there when we needed her, and not hovering overhead when we didn't. If only the staff at Sons of Essex would follow her example.

The menu at Penthouse 808 is a standard Asian fusion one. The truth is, if you've eaten just about anywhere else that calls itself Asian fusion, you've already had this food, and most likely a better version of it. That's not to say that it wasn't fine. It was fine. It was, sadly, not better than fine, which at Penthouse 808's price-point is a problem. When we ordered our meal, three dishes which we shared, we asked that they all be brought out as they were finished in the kitchen. Yet one of the dishes, the Grilled Pork Spare Ribs, were nowhere near hot. Lukewarm maybe. Either they were waiting to deliver this to our table so that everything else could finish and arrive together at the table, or the spare ribs here were an extra from a previous order. But even if the food had arrived hot, it was still far too fatty. I usually love spare ribs and the sugary glaze that these were in was pretty tasty, but being cold and fatty didn't do it any favors.

These days, any restaurant with sushi has to have, I assume by law, a gimmicky sushi roll menu with rolls named after local streets, local landmarks, local celebrities, and so on and so forth. We went for the less locally monikered Gotham Roll: tuna, cucumber, avocado, and jalapeno under a drizzle of a tangy sauce. And it was good. Unlike the spare ribs at least it was supposed to be cold. It was big and heavy and we felt like we were getting our money's worth. Finally, the Marinated Skirt Steak Flatbread, a rectangular skirt steak pizza with mozzarella, pico de gallo, and chimichuri. While Myna thought that the crust was too crispy for her taste, it didn't bother me, and it was easily the best of the three plates that we ate here.

In the end, we had a very fun time. The view was amazing and is the main reason people choose rooftop dining. But Penthouse 808 ain't the fine dining that Windows on the World might have provided. It's young and trendy and overpriced and cliche and the menu is generic. It's so loud from the blasting music that you'd be yelling across the able to your girlfriend except that she's not across the table but sitting diagonally with your knees touching and you still have to yell. It's dark. It wants you to drink and mingle and bring your friends who live in the boondocks so that they can look out across the river in awe. It wants you to party and take sexy glitterdress photos with a skyline backdrop and post those photos all over Instagram and Facebook. You aren't paying attention to your $13 glass of Bailey's that's mostly ice because it's your birthday or your graduation or a promotion party and one of your ten friends bought a round of kamikaze shots for the table and WOO!!!

Anyway, to answer your question, yes I'd still go back.

Our meal was three plates, two cocktails, one beer, and one $13 glass of Bailey's that was mostly ice. With tax and tip, the total came to $105.

As I mentioned, the Ravel is attaching another building to its property and renovations are beginning in the New Year, so if you choose to go, now would be the time. Or wait until it's warm.

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