When I tried to visit Olmsted for lunch, I parked my car with a valet and followed the helpful signposts along 14th Street and up a flight of stairs to the patio. There I encountered a barrier to keep me out of a private function. After exploring every nook of that block and walking up and down the stairs twice, I decided to climb over the barrier, wedge myself between a table and a group of canape-clutching suits and work my way to the unmarked door.
“Is this the entrance to Olmsted?” I asked a waitress, who was coming by with a tray of drinks.
“It’s one of them,” she responded, motioning with her head to another door across the room that opens to the courtyard.
When Legacy Restaurant Partners took over the former Trois, they reconfigured this sleek three-story space, rechristening the street-level bar as Article 14 and effectively cutting its ties to Olmsted upstairs by cutting off the interior staircase that united them.
Now, by entering through the freshly relandscaped garden, they underscore this best feature of this glass pod — its windows — and pay tribute to the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who gave many intown neighborhoods their grace. But they haven’t quite worked out all the details.
Legacy also made the considered decision to open Olmsted only for lunch and events; dinner has always proven a tough sell here. Lovely as it is, this is a hard space to relate to.
The cooking during these early months isn’t helping matters much.
The coarse hummus (above) holds chunks of hard garbanzo and raw garlic clove — not exactly what you need on a business lunch. The capers and pepperoncini straight from the jar are abundant, but they can’t distract you from the feeling you’re eating a kind of strange, savory Rocky Road ice cream.
The lobster in the roll at right is devoid of any of that telltale spring that is so vital to the enjoyment of this sandwich. (Think of a snappy hot dog.) Instead, it has a sous vide softness that disconcerts.
An order of veal scaloppine topped with arugula salad should have been a welcome lunch indulgence. But the thick and chewy piece of meat sloughed off its unseasoned coating, and the abundant shower of salad atop it has a sweet tinge to the dressing. This dish needs to be about tart, lemony dressing and peppery greens cutting through the delicious, crust-crisping grease of the breading.
These deviled eggs with candied bacon? I might take issue with the sticky, cold bacon and the piping-bag technique because Olmsted is a reasonably expensive restaurant, with entrees in the mid-teens. This appetizer, as it is, might play better in a beer bar.
This restaurant occupies a beautiful but problematic space in the heart of Midtown. I fear it’s like a Lamborghini that no one can drive.