On Sunday, AZ and I met for a catch-up dinner at Centro Vinoteca. I arrived a minute or two after she did, just as she was settling down at the bar. I gathered her from the bar area, coincidentally right behind the host's stand, and thought the host clearly wanted us to wait at the bar and have a drink, I asked to go directly to the table (and not pass Go).
He led us there and watched as we removed our coats and sat down. Now, because (as you'll see) service is really Centro's downfall, I'll make special note of the fact that this host was one of the creepiest guys I've ever encountered. As we settled in, he stood there watching us with this incredibly self-satisfied smirk on his face (in the genre of "yeah, I'm getting laid tonight," even though all that transpired after we sat down was he handed us our menus and left). As he oozed away, we contemplated the menus, of which we each had 3.5 (.5 being the wine list, which we shared; 3 being the three other menus we each had. Seven menus total on the table). Too many menus, too much confusion, but we made the best of it.
We both chose the same thing, the chantarelle, romanesco cauliflower and asparagus salad with spring onions and arugula (thus making this my shortest review ever). When AZ ordered, she asked if the kitchen could add sour apples to the salad. In response, our waitress replied, "You can't just make your own salad." Oh really? I thought this was a Europa. Apparently, she informed us, Centro will remove ingredients from dishes if necessary but the chefs won't add. Anything. Because that would be wrong. Or something.
Whatever. After ordering, we attempted to have a conversation in the cramped and cacophonous room, struggling to hear each other talk over the din. After a while (a wait which passed sans bread basket), our salads arrived, with a bread basket at the same time. Sigh. The bread itself was pretty good, and there was a bottle of olive oil with herbs stuffed inside on the table (curiously, the oil didn't have much flavor beyond typical olive oil... I guess with all the herbs I was expecting more). I just wish we could have had the bread to munch while waiting.
The salad itself, I will admit, was pretty spectacular. Each ingredient was perfectly cooked, and it was well-dressed and well-spiced. All the flavors worked harmoniously, rather than being just a bunch of ingredients thrown together on a plate. It was also a relatively generous portion, although it should be for $12. This was definitely one of the better salads I've had in a while.
So, food-wise, Centro could very well be a four-spat restaurant (I don't feel we tried enough variety to give it the full nod, seeing as how we didn't even have dessert). But given the pretty atrocious service, and the fact that it's actively uncomfortable to be in the room because it's so loud, I have to deduct a spatula, leaving Centro a Three Offset Spatula place. I'd go back if my friends were meeting there, but there are certainly better options around.
74 Seventh Avenue South