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Wednesday
Nov022011

Extra...Average? (A Review of Extra Virgin on 259 West 4th street in the West Village)

Due to a crazy work and family schedule last week, I slacked a bit in my gentlemanly duties toward planning a date ahead of time - leaving me to scramble last minute to locate a nice charming spot for a Friday night dinner.  Thankfully, Miss X was understanding about my situation and threw out a couple of options of her own - Extra Virgin ("EV") was one of them.  She said it was always packed when she tried to go in the past, and she wanted to give it another go.  After some quick online research, I was more than happy to claim semi-ownership for this idea; reviews had yielded solid culinary praise, with even some sources claiming it to be a very reputable date spot.  My lapse in gallantry was no big deal after all.  "Let's try Extra Virgin," I offered.

I met Miss X on the sidewalk at around 8:45 and, as expected on a Friday night, there was a 30-40 minute wait.  We didn't quite mind, there was a cozy (perhaps too cozy) little bar scene inside, and we each had a couple of drinks until our table for two was ready.  To momentarily escape our claustrophobia from being around the bar, we stepped outside and sat at one of their elevated sidewalk tables.  On a slightly warmer night, we would have entertained staying there for dinner.  It would have been a cool place to mangia while casually people watching.

The Scene: We were subsequently seated at a smallish two-top.  The interior definitely has character: candles at each table, tin ceilings, and a lingering art deco presence throughout.  Ultimate date spot?  I don't know about that.  The place is a tad loud and crammed - we share some chatter with our neighbors - but I suppose it's date appropriate.  Miss X agrees.

The Grub: For an appetizer, we split an order of Basque style steamed muscles with chorizo, chick peas, olives, grape tomatoes, white wine and cilantro.  The whole dish was pretty solid.  The mussels were fresh, there was a sweet and spicy kick from the chorizo, and a noticeable blanket of of bite from the cilantro.  The salty, satisfying broth functioned as a grade b+ dipping dish for our newly delivered bread.  Good start so far.

For our entrees, we decided to test the restaurant's Italian staples.  Miss X ordered the Rigatoni Bolognese, while I ordered the seasonally appropriate butternut squash ravioli with sage, pecorino and toasted pecans.  Her Rigatoni was impressive.  It was sweet, meaty and satisfying, with adequate oil and salt levels and an admirable consistency (not too watery or pasty) to it all. 

My ravioli, much to my disappointment, was a different story.  While it was indeed well crafted - the pasta was rolled thin, the pockets were generously - but not overly - stuffed, the butternut squash was piping hot and noticeably flavorful - the sauce was super buttery and salty.  This unfortunately killed the dish. And because I planned to blog about it later, I forced down a few more spoonfuls of the sauce to nail down the precise flavor - it was like well buttered popcorn.  I found myself scraping the sauce off the remaining ravioli to finish an otherwise decent dish.

We also ordered a couple of sides: a truffle mac and cheese tart and some roasted brussels sprouts.  The mac and cheese was topped and bottomed with this tasteless, lifeless bread disk which brought little to the table.  Ditto for the mac and cheese which, while containing noticeable truffle flavor, lacked salt and a flavorful cheese.

The sprouts could have also been roasted a couple of additional minutes.  They were a bit too dense, but the carmelized apples and pancetta it came with added an exciting, varying accompaniment.

The Bathrooms:

Nothing memorable here, but it got the job done.  A tight, subway tiled cell, with a well working, blustery xlerator and fresh scent throughout.

Overall, it's tough to assign a definitive verdict for EV.  There were some highlights, there were some lowlights, but I can't say I was overly impressed.  Also - from now on, when a menu simultaneously offers shepherd's pie and rigatoni Bolognese, I'm right to be skeptical.

Overall Experience: Miami Vice

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