Oh how I wanted to like Vitae in downtown Huntington. I watched it being born out of the death of Abel Conklin’s, freshly white-washing the exterior, installing new awnings and transforming its interior from Granny Panties to Lacy G-string. But just like that analogy, Vitae is all show and no substance.
Décor: Generally pleasing and modern with an equal-sized dining room and bar area. The night that we went it was busy enough due to LI Restaurant Week that they were seating diners in the bar section, a classy area with banquet seats and high tops for four in addition to a long bar that seats about twelve. The lighting and rest of the décor cast an amber hue on everything, which always makes everyone look wonderful. The music was jazz, blaring just a little too loudly and in the 1.5 hours that we were there, it had already looped (um, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Pandora…).
Service: Barely there. The maitre d’ from local Bin 56 and Toast was working the room, and he’s a very capable & likeable gentleman. The rest of the staff was smiling and friendly, but they really need to brush up on Waiting 101. Our silverware was taken away from us with each course and not replaced until well after the next course arrived. Our wine glasses were bone dry after the first glass and yet ignored by the waiter and bartender every time they passed by, neither of whom ever asked if we’d like another glass of something. No one came by to ask us how our appetizer or main or dessert tasted. We pre-ordered our dessert and the waiter came by after our entrees were gone to ask us what we wanted for dessert – when we nicely pointed out we’d already told him, he said “oh yeah, but I forgot” (we watched him write it down earlier). And two bites into our dessert our waiter whisked by our table pausing barely long enough to drop off our (un-asked-for) check! I expect this at Denny’s – I don’t expect any of this at a supposedly upscale restaurant.
Food: Disappointing! It looked great on the plate, but things were not cooked to their full potential or description.
Starters: Short rib croquettes with red wine demi-glace and horseradish crème fraiche. This was the best thing we ate here. It was as if someone took my Gram’s pot roast, shredded it, lightly breaded it and flash fried it. Tasty and not too heavy or oily, I would definitely recommend this item (Meatlovin’ Man loved it too, no surprise) – however, the drizzle on the plate was all crème fraiche and not a hint of horseradish. Too bad, as that little “bite” of the root could have sent this dish over the top. Maryland crab cakes, pan seared with lobster remoulade. Typical crab cakes. If you’re a crab-cake snob like I am, don’t bother getting them. They have bread filler, there’s no discernable lump meat (just shredded crabmeat) and there’s not a lobster in sight for that sauce. Yawn.
Mains: Marinated skirt steak, roasted garlic potato puree, sautéed spinach. When they asked MM how he wanted his steak prepared, he requested medium-rare. The plate arrived with two nicely caramelized pieces of skirt steak, an anemic lump of potato puree, and some spinach sautéed with garlic. The steak had a decent marinade (soy sauce was a key ingredient) but it was cooked well done. MM ate the first thinner portion of the steak, hoping that the second bit would prove to be more pink and tender. In reality, the thicker second piece was even worse (at that point it was too late to send it back, which I normally would have. But then again, no one ever asked me how any of my food was…). The potato puree didn’t have any garlic in it and in fact tasted like it was out of a box (I can’t even believe I just wrote that. But it’s sadly true.). Chicken Vitae with wild mushroom demi-glace, marsala, scalloped potato and spring vegetables. Kudos must go to whomever in the kitchen knows how to properly cook a chicken breast to keep it moist – it was perfect. The rest… eh, not so much. Sauce tasted like a jar of mushroom sauce from the store and again, where was the Marsala?? Scalloped potato looked gorgeous and was quite creamy but oddly enough, someone forgot to put any salt in this dish. My “spring vegetables” were a few haricot vert tossed with (bagged?) shredded carrots and a few hunks of red bell pepper. Huh?? Last time I checked, these veggies weren’t specific to Spring, and a standard culinary school rule is to have all your vegetables cut the same way, to be pleasing both texturally and visually. This mix was just strange all around.
Dessert: By the time this course showed up we weren’t holding out any hope, and it’s a good thing we weren’t. My gelato trio was straight out of the carton: vanilla, chocolate and raspberry, although the raspberry was more of an icy sorbet than a creamy gelato. MM was jonesing even before we left home for the online menu’s offering of the molten lava cake. I felt so bad for him when it arrived because it appeared to be smooshed flat, and the “lava” was nowhere to be found. He cut into it and out came… nothing. It’s hard to watch a boy’s dreams crushed like that, I tell ya.
Bottom Line: Skip It! Someone ran off with their spice rack and the staff needs to go back to school. But if you’re curious, here’s the website: www.vitaerestaurant.com. And remember: Fado, Porto Vivo, Besito and a whole host of others are right around the corner waiting to give you interesting, well-executed fare.
Leftover City: chicken avocado sandwich