I stopped by with a guest recently for lunch. We are lighter eaters and found plenty to eat in the noncarnivorous category. She started with the butternut squash soup prepared with pieces of crispy ham, caramelized apple and crema fresca. Her next course was the pepito steak sandwich with black bean puree, caramelized onions, vegetable escabeche and jack cheese. She sent the meat back, declaring it "too raw," and it returned, unbelievably, just two minutes later. She pronounced it "perfectly cooked, not dried out at all," and raved about the thin and crispy fries served with it.
I also started with soup, the caldo de pollo, which consisted of chicken broth, shredded chicken, rice, onion, cilantro, tomato and avocado. The soups are served in nice-sized clay tureens.
My main course was the seared ahi tuna tiradito salad with baby greens, avocado, spring onion, ginger and lemon wasabi vinaigrette. The tuna was thin and fresh, and the vinaigrette light and refreshing.
But my favorite part of the lunch was the bread brought to all diners on a little wooden plate. I don't know what they put in the round rolls, but they are sweet and crunchy and go perfectly with the salsa chutney in a jar on the table.
With dark wood floors and ceilings, comfortable leather lounge seating and a rustic bar, the ambience in the newly designed space is sleek and sophisticated.
For dinner, the eatery is looking to attract guests and locals. But for lunch, it's trying to capture that lucrative downtown power lunch crowd. And with a built-in clientele of lawyers, businessmen and bankers in the adjoining office tower, that shouldn't be a problem.
"We're busier at lunch right now, but with over 1,800 guests working next door, we expected that," Savitt said. "We strongly believe that our lunch business will feed into the dinner business."
While some diners have inquired where the long-time buffet went, most are embracing the new restaurant, Savitt said, noting, "We're getting repeat guests three to four times a week. We're getting lawyers, brokers and people from the entertainment field."
But some, like John Meagher, a partner at Shutts & Bowen next door, still miss the buffet.
"There's a question in my mind as to whether the buffet should come back," he said. "I'm not sure whether it was a good idea or not."