By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
By Sara Ventiera
Angle apparently has not found its bent. The place can't have it both ways, with inept service and pricey gourmet food full of impressive-sounding ingredients. When I asked how they served their American hackleback caviar ($45 an ounce), my waiter looked at me blankly, as though I'd asked him the square root of pi.
Finally, he mumbled "the usual way."
I offered him a clue: "With toast points, maybe?"
Um, yeah, with toast points, he said. And chopped egg. And capers.
Capers with caviar!
It arrived nestled prettily in a crystal bowl of ice, with a mother-of-pearl spoon and an attractively arranged tray of buttered brioche and buckwheat pancakes. It was served with a half-dozen condiments, which included chopped egg, minced red onion, and minced chives. It did not include capers, thank God; but how often will you be glad your server is misinformed? In any case, the caviar rocked: mild, faintly nutty, spooned onto butter-infused brioche points, and topped with crème fraîche and a pinch of chives.
Capers did eventually come, with our beef tartare ($15), a pleasant concoction of melting, chopped tenderloin topped with layers of horseradish, crème fraîche, slices of pear, and celery. But for the overdose of horseradish, it was perfect. Lemon-thyme gnocchi ($15), tossed with black trumpet mushrooms, was a triumph except for the missing peekytoe crab that was advertised on the menu. The homemade tagliatelle with toasted pumpkin seeds and a rich sauce contained only the teensiest slivers of "slow cooked rabbit leg," so minuscule that they might have been any meat at all. Whether they were slow-cooked, fast-cooked, or painstakingly toasted over a small peat fire in the Everglades, who could tell? A squab-breast appetizer ($17; squab is pampered pigeon), sliced and served pink as carnelian, had an intense, deep flavor — think of dark-meat fowl with just a whisper of offal. Still, the squab was an island floating in an oversalted black-pepper oxtail consommé sprinkled with a few green lentils. Even the best dishes got it only 75 percent right.
Should you sup at Angle, try the starters (which could constitute a fine pre-theater snack before you hop across the street to Florida Stage). Because the entrées were lousy. The cod and sturgeon were flavorless, something their precious ingredients couldn't remedy. The pan-seared cod ($36) lolled in a broth of baby fennel, crosnes (twisty, potato-like roots of a plant in the mint family), and matsutake mushrooms; the kitchen could have kept the cod and sent out just the vegetables for twice the pleasure and half the price. The fillet of sturgeon, having long since relinquished its last drop of moisture, was overcooked; it was like a feeble diva elbowed aside by a rambunctious supporting cast of caviar, wild mushrooms, and a poached oyster, so that you almost pitied it. The Veal3 (veal cubed, or served three ways, $45) got at least one of its elements right: the seared loin was deliciously pink and juicy. But the "crispy veal cheeks" were awful — one fatty bite had a startlingly rancid tang, while the rest had the consistency and flavor of pot roast. The single braised rib had its delectable moments paired with cheddar grits, but then, you can't get cheddar grits wrong; it's their elemental nature to taste fantastic.
Angle's desserts, courtesy of Pastry Chef Jerome LeTeuff, saved us from despair. From the almond crunch-banana-chocolate ABC mousse ($12) to an imaginative apple tart ($11), they were pretty and playful and inspired. On our second visit, however, toward the end of our meal, our waiter delivered our "sweet degrees" ($13), with a salty caramel mousse, a lovely and complex strawberry sorbet, and a weird mango-chocolate soufflé — and then disappeared. So did the rest of the staff. We were left alone in a big, empty room. Had the staff gathered behind the velvet drapes to whisperingly recite their 12 new service values? As in, "I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests"?
Let me offer the following handy list of my diner's wishes and needs, expressed as a prayer dedicated to the memory of a great hotelier:
Monsieur Ritz, give me the strength to forgive my waiter
for not knowing whether my $50 steak is dry- or wet-aged, grilled or broiled.
Grant that my $200 bill be offered when I'm ready to leave,
not 20 annoying minutes later. And let my servers not abandon me
in a dark and empty room, at the end of a very expensive
and only partly delicious meal.
And lastly, forgive me for not knowing exactly what I want
until it's clear I'm not getting the half of it.