88 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 977-6096

For my birthday dinner, I had one rule: wherever we go, it had to have a Michelin star. Of the 24,000 restaurants in New York City, this simple edit cut out 23,950 of them. Eliminating all of those not available on OpenTable (gimme points!) pinched off another 20. Refusing to take a seat at a time I didn't like cut that number in half again, and finally my refusal to walk more than a few blocks from either  the E or the F train narrowed it to a pleasant half dozen. It was basically between La Sirena and Rouge Tomate and I chose La Sirena because Lutsy loves Italian food more than all others and I'm a good boyfriend. Easy Peasy.

Nestled on the first floor of the boutique Maritime Hotel, a hideously ugly building that caters to the not-so hideous sexy tourist class for $400 a night is La Sirena, an upscale-casual-chic Italian restaurant that's about as far from Arthur Avenue's Dominick's Restaurant as one could imagine.

If I started my meal wondering if anyone could realistically nurse a single drink for an hour and a half, La Sirena's $21 negroni taught me that it could indeed be possible. The rest of the meal actually wasn't too badly priced, especially not for a hip Michelin-starred joint. Our meals were pre-fixed four courses for $72 per person, and we actually left feeling pretty full.

For the first of these courses, Lutsy ordered a Squash Blossom appetizer stuffed with ricotta, anchovy, and honey. I initially didn't think I'd it like at all. When it arrived in front of us looking like well-plated dead cicadas, I was all but certain that it would suck. But who knew? It was fantastic! It was sweet and creamy, light and rich. There is literally nothing wrong with this appetizer. I ordered the Verdure, a salad with peas, fava beans, tendrils, pecorino cheese, and a pomodoro vinaigrette, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. It was refreshing and fresh and perfect for the hot as hell summer day. Semi-bitter. Semi-sweet. Minty.

Round two was the pasta course. Lutsy ordered the Garganelli pasta in a veal ragu with sun gold tomatoes and I ordered the Pappardelle in a heritage pork bolognese. Fun fact, "heritage" pork means that the animal is older, organically raised, and can trace its genes to pigs from the colonial times, thereby granting the pig a longer life, the consumer a more flavorful meal, and the restaurant a heartier tab. La Sirena gives you the option of spitting the pastas between two plates so they can be shared without having noodles swinging like sauce-dripping vines across the table and we opted for that. Both the garganelli and parppardelle were good, but we agreed that the pappardelle was the better of the two. That said, let me be bluntly honest here. The pastas were good. They were fine. They did their job. But they didn't blow my socks off and I kind of assumed that they would. The pappardelle pasta's sauce was a little too acidic and Lutsy's garganelle was a little too gritty and timid. I'm not telling you to skip the pasta course, but there are better pastas for the money out there.

For my third course I tried the Quail Sangiovese because how often do you see quail? The entree came with, as you can see, two of them glazed in an herb-cherry sauce and served on a bed of fennel. These are small birds, each smaller than half a Cornish hen. The chef did a good job carving out the vast majority of the skeleton to allow patrons to reserve a semblance of class while eating, but at a certain point one will have to roll up their sleeves, put down their utensils, and eat the bird KFC style. Lutsy went for the Crispy Branzino Piccata in spicy cherry butter, which she really liked. I'm not a skin-on-fish kind of guy, so I was a tad less enthusiastic, though I did like it. She recommends the dish whole-heartedly.

The desserts were small. Real small. My Bay Leaf Panna Cotta came topped with a little pistachio cookie thing and a spoonful of cherry compote off to the side. I love panna cotta, but this was genuinely mediocre and I really don't recommend it. It looked great on the plate and this dish wasn't altogether bad, but it also wasn't altogether good for much more than an Instagram pic. Lutsy got the Tiramisu with coffee mascarpone whipped cream and coated in a chocolate olive oil sauce. I do recommend this. Tiramisu is always a good choice.

In conclusion, I'm very glad to have gone to La Sirena and I do recommend that you go check the place out, but unless Gilt City offers a deal or I can put the tab on an expense account, I really doubt that I'll be back. The service was excellent, the atmosphere was top notch, and the price was relatively good. It's just that there were a few too many dishes that I found lacking in the oomph! department.

The total cost for the meal, which was the four course pre-fix, one cocktail and one coffee, was about $170 plus tax and tip.

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