70 Pine Street is a marvel of Art Deco architecture. I used to go to meetings in the building when it was the headquarters for AIG. I haven’t been in the building in over 10 years so had forgotten what a gem it is. Its a glorious lobby. After checking in you are directed to a private elevator that looks like a jewel box which whisks you up to the 63rd floor. The elevator opens and you have a personal greeter escort you to the nearby bar. I ordered the specialty cocktail which was described as a spicy margarita. After giving our drink orders, our greeter takes us to a table by a window. To say the view is spectacular doesn’t do justice to what you can see. Its as though you are in a skyship hovering over the city looking down on everything.

After the bartender brought over our drinks (my drink was quite spicy, slices of fresh jalapeno imparting a lingering tingle to my lips), our captain came by to describe the menu. 7 courses with a few amuses. The last dish was a large format that would be for us to share. The choice was duck or beef. We went with the duck. Then the sommelier came by with the wine list and left it for us to flip through. It was a very concise list, maybe 10 pages. Prices ranged from high double digits into the mid 4 figure range. I thought the number of bottles for less than $100 was higher than I expected given the price of the dinner.

When the somm came back, we spent a fair amount of time talking about possible choices. My lovely wife enjoys wine with dinner but she rarely has more than a couple of glasses so we ruled out the wine pairing at $155 a person. The somm said if we wanted to go with a bottle, he suggested something sparkling or white as the first several courses that evening would be lighter until our main when we could get a glass of red. We choose a 1er cru chablis.

We were then shown to our table which was right by a balcony. If you contrast the dining room to EMP or LeB, its more cozy and intimate. The dining room doesn’t try to compete with the setting which is a smart choice. No grand ceilings. Not a massive soaring space. More like you have wandered into a discreet billionaire’s home. The inside is simple. All that you need for a show though is to look out the windows. There are balconies on all sides. As it was cold, blustery and snowing, we didn’t go outside. Having a cocktail at sunset on a summer evening when the city would turn rose and orange would likely be a magical experience.

So on to the food. I’m not good a taking pictures of my meals as I often eat first and then after getting halfway or more through the plate think I should take a picture which results in many pictures of messy plates and gnawed bones on my phone. So there won’t be many pics.

There was an amuse of a puffy ball almost macaron like cloud in a bowl with tiny pickled bits. You cracked the cloud and scooped up the crumbly parts with the pickly bits. Tart and refreshing.

If you’ve read about Saga, the fluke dish has garnered a bit of press.

This was the only course that got a contextual intro. Mercifully brief description of how the chef grew up on Long Island and would fish for fluke. If you remember EMP would give you lectures with practically every course which got trite and superficial, this was at least personal. Presented in 5 different ways. The bit in the crispy shell with trout roe was the best of the 5.

There was a citrus and radish salad with the most mouth wateringly tangy dressing. I just wanted to pick up the bowl to finish it off. This dish had the smallest tangerine segments I have every seen. The entire fruit must be the size of a strawberry.

An example of remembering to take a pictures after I started.

There was a caviar course, a bread course, some other assorted bits and then a seafood course. This had sea bass, lobster, scallop and clam. For the first time, I tasted something of the Moroccan flavors that I have been hearing about. The sauce had an aromatic, almost curry like flavor.

I spooned up every bit of the sauce. Just needed some bread to wipe the bowl clean, but alas the laminated roll that came in the prior bread course was nowhere to be seen.

Then came the duck. This time I remembered to take the picture before starting.

Duck 3 ways: breast, sous vide and a leg rolled. With all sorts of sides. The most interesting of which was the chicory salad with persimmons and a flatbread that was reminiscent of chinese style scallion pancakes. Crisp and savory. The duck was fatty and unctuous in the way you want all meat to be.

At this point we were ready to burst. I don’t understand people who say that fancy tasting menus leave you hungry. By now we had consumed probably the equivalent of at least two, maybe three meals.

After our table was cleared, we were escorted through the kitchen to a solarium where we had a Moroccan style tea service. Minty sweet tea and a little tidbit to munch and a chance to look at the stunning view again.

Dessert comes after we return to our table. Its a make your own ice cream sandwich set up. A “parker house” ring sits on top with 5 different toppings and a big bowl of ice cream for each of us. Simple but incredibly tasty and fun.

Finally, an assortment of candies that come in a variety of oddball flavors. We were so stuffed we didn’t even try them. They were boxed for us to go.

Service was solicitous and friendly. Anything we asked for was done without hesitation.

The food was great. Was it the best I’ve ever had, no. There were some spectacular dishes but some things were just ok. I suspect that whenever the NY Times and Michelin show up, it will fall just short of the trois etiole level. All in all, though I would say that for its price point, I think it provides great value (getting ready to be flamed for that statement). Dinner for two with a bottle of wine after tax and tip was about nine hundred. The combination of the setting, service and food puts it near the top. We will be back in warmer weather.