I’m more of a country mouse than a city mouse, but I prefer to think I am a country mouse with visiting privileges. The city this week was New York and virtually everyone can tell by the smile on my face that I’m not “one of the city-folk”, so when I arrive I take a defensive stance to ward off people who might prey on tourists. I try to sound very knowledgeable and practice rattling off streets and cross roads for cabbies while at heart I know despite the number of visits I make to New York, I will forever be the wide eyed tourist. Just check out this tourist photo gallery slide show, if you need proof.
Regarding New York service…
Our hotel DoubleTree by Hilton on West 36th between 8th and 9th is in a section known as Hell’s Kitchen which doesn’t sound very inviting at all. http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-new-york-times-square-south-NYCSQDT/index.html . But the DoubleTree is well located and affordable in an up and coming neighborhood near the Javitz Center http://www.javitscenter.com/ The Javits Center is an enormous venue for shows and expos that is large enough to host both last weekend’s boat show and travel show simultaneously. But back to the hotel…..it has horrible elevator service – we were on the 8th floor and mostly walked down rather than wait for the elevator. My room had a view of other less glamorous buildings, though I did enjoying playing voyeur peeping through the windows at designers working there. My shower door couldn’t be opened all the way without confronting the toilet. But I’d go back again. Why? Service and value.
The front desk gave us three recommendations for excellent and affordable restaurants, worked through the quirks of my antivirus-ware to get me internet on my tablet and lap top, and regardless of the hour we wandered back into the hotel someone always greeted us with a smile, a warm cookie, and kind word. Most impressively, when we decided last minute to leave early to avoid the pending blizzard, they took off the charges of our last night on both of our rooms without hesitation and packed us up some warm cookies for our 5 hour drive home. Nice.
There is a saying that water seeks its own level and so it was with the recommendations for restaurants we received from our hotel front desk. Especially for newly opened Oovah http://www.oovahnyc.com/tablet/index.html. Chef/Owner Giovanni Morales and Owner Stephen Hoover transformed their previous venture Market Cafe into Oovah barely two weeks earlier and the transformation is complete. I whipped out the camera to capture the unique beauty of the restaurant before we’d even had the recommendation to dine there.
Our party of three arrived on a tough night – a broken water main meant the staff of Oovah could have been biding its time expecting to close after the last cocktail guest left. We, however, showed up hungry. Right before we headed elsewhere an owner came out and said “Don’t go. We’ll make you dinner.” It seems they sent someone out to buy the gallons of water they would need to be operational. We had no restrictions on what we could select and the decision was tough. The food is influenced by Guatamalian cuisine and other than a dessert or two is gluten free. We never missed the gluten and didn’t realize that until later.
We selected tapas-sized courses and shared: Kale caesar salad, shrimp ceviche, crisped pork tacos, the best fries in the world (aka Hand cut papas fritas with white truffle oil, parmesan and herbs), and waiter Chris’ recommendation of Mama Sonia’s pepper stuffed meatballs. We were hooked. Really hooked. Especially when accompanied by an excellent Carmenere Reserva, Tres Palacios 2012, and despite the fact they were out of a chocolate cake we’d all wanted to try. No one looked askance as we requested individual checks with the liquor separated out. Alcohol is not expensible – so we cover our own costs there. Ultimately our dinner costs were less than an entrée in most other places.
According to Answer.com there are about 24,000 restaurants in NYC. We were in town for 4 nights. But the food and service was so good at Oovah we went back the next night to see what they could do without being hampered by pesky water mains, and because we wanted those fries again and a second chance at the cake we’d missed.
We were even more impressed on dinner #2. Everyone welcomed us back like old buddies and we hit the menu hard but were forewarned that the chocolate cake was still not available. Brussel sprouts, bistec y papas (steak and fries) for two of us, another round of crisped pork tacos, pan seared scallops and the dish that will live in our memories as of one of the best combinations of flavors: Cassava gnocchi with cassava, pork lardon, garlic sauce. The sauce was so good combining the brightness of lemon, the savory lardons, and other fabulous herb tastes that came forth in turns, that we could leave none behind. We liked the scallops as they were but took them out of the original sauce and added the cassava and they were better still, and we ate every smidgen of cassava sauce.
As dinner came to a close my friends wanted an after dinner cordial so I asked for a Grand Marnier. The owner came out with a couple of samples of other options both straight and on ice and apologized for not having Grand Marnier. Something I’d never tried before Creme de Pamplemousse Rose from France was sweet and smooth and very definitely grapefruit for those of you who have forgotten your French. So my choice was made.
And as we were served the cordials, the floor manager, Jonathan, brought out the elusive chocolate cake. Jonathan had whispered to me earlier in the evening that they were trying to make it in time for our dessert, but we didn’t tell the others for fear our timing might be off. Surprisingly Oovah came through again. They’d made the cake in the time we’d had dinner so we wouldn’t go away disappointed.
While the restaurant is still so new, there was no line waiting to get inside. I think and I expect that to change if they keep offering the superior guest experience that we enjoyed.
People always talk about service with a smile. And that’s fine although grinning staff can feel a bit perfunctory – I think the smile part of that phrase should be the one left on the customers’ faces and in the case of DoubleTree and Oovah….the smiles were sincerely shared.
(c)2015 by Alison Colby-Campbell
Oovah Tapas and Wine Gallery http://www.oovahnyc.com/
Javits Center http://www.javitscenter.com/