During the hustle and bustle of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week earlier this month, we yearned for a quiet retreat. A place to rest our heels, inhale a deep breathe of champagne and recover from the madness that just ensued in the form of leggy blondes and not so modest brunettes. We found just that in the comfort of Ai Fiori, a sensational new restaurant in the stylish Fifth Avenue Setai Hotel.
Ai Fiori, meaning ‘Among the Flowers’ in Italian, celebrates cuisine from the Italian and French Riviera and showcases modern interpretations of traditional regional dishes from Provence to Liguria. It’s a warm, inviting space with elegant service, European heart and a seriously sophisticated lunch menu.
This cozy spot is a perfect new place to lunch with clients—excellent prix fixe choices, not too noisy or crowded, each table has its open sort of personal space and the daytime view of Fifth Avenue is one of NYC’s finest. The service is spectacularly accommodating, allowing for a three hour indulgence of six courses or obliging three courses to fit into your one hour allotment of decadence.
the style of cuisine at Ai Fiori gives us the ability to bring back old-world methods and dishes and make them our own way. – PJ Calapa, Chef de Cuisine
The executive chef and owner of Ai Fiori is Michael White, the current King of the New World Italian/Mediterranean food revolution. Chef White is a Michelin rated James Beard Winner with seven different Italian styled restaurants from Hong Kong to NY. His soulful, flavorful interpretation of old world cuisine gives the word “Italian” a happy new meaning.
He takes the traditional hands-on, ingredient-driven cooking style of the Italians and brings new life to each dish. To Ai Fiori he brings a luxurious, Monte Carlo-esque hybrid of Italian and French Riviera cuisines. The core success of the menu stems from sticking to strictly northern Italian and southern French cuisine.
Expect dishes like perfectly executed lobster velouté, périgord black truffles and chervil. White’s classic pasta dishes all shine, but the agnolitti of braised veal parcels, corn purée, and basil explode in your mouth like miniature popcorn pasta buds and the tortelli ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, with a red wine glaze is a cashmere blanket of edible happiness. A tableside desert tray signals the end of each meal, and while the gesture may be old-fashioned the tartlets inside are anything but ordinary. Chocolate lovers can indulge in a single size serving of dark chocolate tartaletta with a touch of anise and grapefruit, while the featherlight Panna Cotta is an airy bite of heavenly vanilla crema, blackberries and melon sorbetto.
This restaurant is roomier, quieter and fancier than White’s other ventures. At Ai Fiori, he gets to do what he does best: present the food he is passionate about from regions in which he has lived and cooked.
It’s about reinventing the classics with a dazzling display of mediterranean luxe, provençal kitchen flavors, and Italian heart. Salut!