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Now imagine that you're enjoying this view comfortably ensconced at a table in stylishly elegant surroundings. The food you are eating is made with the finest ingredients, creatively prepared by an outstanding chef. Sounds perfect, huh? Not quite. Consider waiting half hour before being offered a menu or a drink. Definitely a buzz kill!At Riverview, in the Avalon, the new luxury residential high rise in Long Island City, the view and decor are spectacular and food is memorable. It's a shame that the wait staff seems to have attended the Faulty Towers School of Restaurant Service. Our first visit lasted 2 1/2, though not by choice. We were shown to a table promptly, but ignored for half an hour. We eventually ordered, and our courses arrived at a glacial pace, without our server checking in to see whether we wanted additional drinks or anything else. Single slices of bread were doled out with tongs by a roving server while we contemplated gnawing on our napkins to stave off hunger. We hasten to add that once the Maitre d' became aware of our situation, he was profoundly apologetic. He gave us our drinks on the house, and our waiter threw in a dessert. Unfortunately, the dessert was presented without first inquiring about our preferences, and our waiter scurried off so quickly for our after-dinner drinks that he neglected to ask what I wanted, returning with two of my companion's choice. Anyplace can have an off night, especially on a busy Saturday. Maybe they were short staffed. With such wonderful food and elegant appointments, a second visit was in order. We returned for lunch a few days later. This time the dining room was practically empty. There were only two other occupied tables, not counting the one where the two valet parking attendants lounged around in their hooded sweatshirts. Our server, the same one who attended us on Saturday night, with fewer diners to attend to, revved up to a snail's pace. The "express lunch" on the menu turned out to be a cruel joke. It traveled on the local. It was seemingly more important to our waiter to straighten chairs and tidy empty tables than to be attentive to our needs.Fortunately, Riverview's food is worth the wait. Executive Chef Richard Farnabe is brilliant and his menu is inventive and luxurious. Sea scallops with roasted beet and clementine almond sauce was a show stopper. The plump scallops were perfectly offset by the roasted beets and sweet sauce. The cauliflower risotto is not like any risotto I've ever tasted, but who cares. If it tastes good, it is good. In this case, a simple preparation of cauliflower and broccoli is transformed by an I-would-never-have-guessed-what's-in-it caper raisin sauce. A real sleeper. The quail stuffed with Asian pear and served with watercress salad was the least exciting of the appetizers we sampled, although expertly prepared and enjoyable.The entrees posed my favorite kind of dilemma - they all sounded sooo good. Although roasted beef tenderloin served with cardamom chocolate sauce piqued my curiosity, as did paupiette of John-Dory with foie gras and spicy sherry sauce, we settled on roulade of Dover sole stuffed with Kumamoto oysters and coconut sauce and roasted lamb.The tropical flavor of the coconut sauce and the sensuous oysters infused the neutral Dover sole with soul. A great match. The roasted lamb combined a rosemary crusted half-rack with a meaty braised lamb shank. The barbecue sauce was assertively pleasing. The texture differential between the roasted and braised lamb added an extra dimension. The lamb was served over creamy mashed potatoes that were, unfortunately, barely luke warm. Desserts keep pace with the rest of the culinary excellence here. Our waiter's choice, and a great one, was a fabulous chocolate mousse with layers of dark and white chocolate with layers of hazelnut dacquoise (meringue) between layers. Chocolate heaven. The orange crme brulee that came with our lunch special was a well executed and generously portioned classic.The Bottom LineRiverview would have all the elements of a truly great restaurant if they would improve the service. The food and ambiance compare favorably with Manhattan's top restaurants, yet their prices are in line with the average upscale Queens eatery. Lunch prices are extremely reasonable, especially if you choose one of their lunch "deals." Think of them for your next big night out. Perhaps by then they will have gotten their act together in the front of the house.Riverview2-01 50th AvenueLong Island City718 392-5000www.riverviewny.comCuisine: French Accented Contemporary EcclecticSetting: GlamorousService: Dazed and confusedHours: Lunch and dinner seven days, Sunday brunchReservations: RecommendedAlcohol: Full bar, extensive wine listParking: ValetDress: Business to dressyChildren: WelcomeMusic: Friday and Saturdays after 9 p.m. in loungeTakeout: YesCredit cards: YesNoise level: Noisy when busyHandicap accessible: YesRecommended DishesSea scallopsÉ$16Cauliflower RisottoÉ$9Roasted quailÉ$12Roulade of Dover soleÉ$25Roasted lambÉ$28Riverview chocolate trio (mousse)É$11Orange crme bruleeÉ$8
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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