Many of us have had a lifelong affair with the combination of wine and cheese. And to our delight, most large cities have an array of wine and cheese bars to choose from. They are quite easy to find. However, when I came across AYZA and discovered they not only had an extensive wine and cheese list, but they also had a gourmet chocolate menu, it took my love of wine/cheese/chocolate to a whole new level. What genius thought of doing all three in one place!? And why isn't it done more often? Reservation booked!
The inside space is small, intimate and laid out like a classic wine bar. Bar-height tables, dim lighting, wine bottles stacked to the ceiling. They also have patio seating, but we opted for sitting inside for the full experience. We were immediately greeted with mini shots of their tropical sangria, which was fruity (obviously) and mild. We ordered a flight of four wines, four chocolates, a plate of six cheeses, the crispy baby shrimp dumplings, white truffle pita tart and the baby rocket arugula salad. The shrimp dumplings came with (delicious) garlic chili sauce and yellow sea wakame salad. The dumplings were crisp on the outside and flavorful on the inside. The garlic chili sauce was key in this dish. The white truffle pita tart was basically pizza made out of pita bread. It was tasty and thin. The truffle oil and parmesan definitely stood out on this otherwise simple dish, that was topped with the mild flavors of arugula and mozzarella. The baby rocket arugula salad was my favorite. The combination of micro-diced manchego cheese, crisp green apples, walnuts, dates and a light hand of balsamic vinaigrette made this one of those dishes you could easily eat everyday. It was a balanced combination of perfectly portioned ingredients --not one overpowered the other.
For our flight of wine we got Pinot Noir (Chanson Père & Fils), Cabernet Sauvignon (Heller Estate), Riesling (S.A. Prüm Essence), and Sauvignon Blanc (Fleur du Cap). The Pinot Noir was rich, ripe and dense. The tannins were strong and it's a dry wine --best alone or paired with cheese. The Cabernet Sauvignon was probably my favorite amongst the bunch. It was very mild, dry, yet fruity, and didn't overpower the flavor of the food. The Reisling was crisp and sweet, with a strong apple flavor. I like to counter my wine with the opposite taste, so I would prefer this with a mild cheese or basically anything not sweet. The Sauvignon Blanc was fruity with light tannins --but not too sweet. Overall , with food, I preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinot Noir and Riesling alone or with cheese.
For cheese we ordered the Aged Manchego, Shropshire Blue, Aged Parmigiano Reggiano, French Brie, Bucheron and the Herb Goat Cheese. The aged manchego was served in thin slices and very mild and soft. The understated flavor paired well with a stronger wine like the Pinot Noir. I'm not a huge fan of blue cheese but the shropshire blue was pretty good. Very potent and best eaten in very small portions. The aged parmigiano reggiano was a basic but delicious cheese. It was quite salty and strong ,so I liked it with the cabernet. The french brie was, well, brie. It was basic but good, soft and buttery. The bucheron was sharp and flavorful. It was strong, so I preferred it with the cabernet as well. My favorite was the herb goat cheese. It was soft and blended with spices, herbs and lemon which made it zesty and unique.
Last came the gourmet chocolate! We ordered Martine's Piano and Violin and Jacques Torres' 80% dark chocolate and Love Bug. The piano (shaped like a piano) was milk chocolate filled with butterscotch caramel. It was divine! As a huge butterscotch and caramel fan, this treat was mouth-watering. Extremely sweet, yet salty, and melted in your mouth. The violin (yes, shaped like a violin) was solid, mild white chocolate. It was simple but tasty. Between the two, the piano played on my tongue better. The 80% dark chocolate was rich and not overly bitter. For being 80% pure, it was actually quite sweet. Next was Love Bug, which was key lime ganache covered in light white chocolate. This was my second favorite. Fruity, soft-centered and tangy.
Overall, the experience was excellent! We left full and satisfied. The service was fast and friendly. I really liked the small portions and variety --I would rather have a little bit of everything than a lot of a couple things. I will definitely be back to try more items on their menu.
Try it for yourself!
Check out www.ayzanyc.com.
AYZA Wine & Chocolate Bar
11 West 31st Street
New York City, NY 10001