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Entries in Heat (3)

Tuesday
Feb222011

The Case of the Hidden Bone Marrow (a review of A Voce restaurant)



This week's review is of A Voce Restaurant, on 41 Madison Avenue (they also have another location as well, at 10 Columbus Circle).  Elana and I are greeted and seated immediately, despite arriving about 20 minutes early for our reservation.  They are extremely welcoming.

The Scene -  The interior has a modern, trendy sharpness to it.  Abstract artistry, colored lights and contoured leather seating gives off a very Vegas like feel.  It's a spacious, sprawling, single level space featuring angled furniture, walls and fixtures which perfectly mesh together like well working geometry experiment.



The Grub - A Voce starts us off with some fresh, Tuscan (no, or little, salt) style bread with a dipping dish of EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil).  Elana and I use this opportunity to scan the wide ranging menu.  We first split an order of the Cassoncini con Prosciutto Di Parma.  The Cossoncini is a fried dumpling stuffed with piping hot mozzarella cheese and, and this case, spinach.  The fry is nice and light and doesn't distract from a wonderful, cream spinach like inside.  The accompanying cuts of Prosciutto are of high quality.  They are perfectly moist but not too fatty or salty.





We follow this up with two pasta dishes: (1) Agnolotti - sunchoke filled pasta with brown butter, walnuts and rosemary and (2) Quadratti - gorgonzola filled pasta with savoy cabbage and truffles.   Both pastas (which are of the ravioli/tortellini genre) are of excellent construction (look at the 4 sides of the "quad" ratti.  Brilliant!).  They are sturdy enough not to leak filling, yet rolled thin so to provide each bite with loads of flavor.  The former pasta is my top choice between the two.  It's a perfect feature of sweet and salt.  The gorgonzola pasta is darn good, but there is an ever-so-slight let down: it had been covered in truffle shavings which, sadly, provided minimal (almost non existent, actually) truffle flavor.  Nonetheless, I'm able to quickly overlook this otherwise grave mistake due the excellent quality of pasta that sits in a lemony, buttery sauce which, according to Elana is more like "cabbagey, cheetoh madness."  I'm sure this is exactly what they had in mind.



For our main dish, Elana and I split braised veal shank Ossobuco with bone marrow and leeks.  This dish is superb.  With a gentle pull, the veal effortlessly falls off the bone and rests in a pool of burgundy, lightly salted broth.  The meat is both fatty and tender, with taste levels that are simply through the roof.  But the real treat, is found inside the bone, which is jam packed with the buttery, fatty, boogery goodness that is bone marrow.  Upon Elana making this discovery, we both shove the butt-ends of our forks to force out this glorious goop, and spread the remains on the meat.  L-I-V-I-N.



For a side, we also order Cauliflower, which has been toasted in oil, a light vinegar, and sprinkled with sea salt.  It is perfectly crunchy and lightly burnt. As is custom, Elana and I top of off our meal with some of the best Espresso in recent memory - just an absolute kick ass ying yang of bitter and smooth.  It is served with a complimentary, lemony marshmallow treat (as seen below).

Throughout the meal, A Voce's service is quite good.  While it's not the absolute soup to nuts flawless presentation of, say, Del Posto, A Voce has the requisite features of a top flight restaurant: a knowledgeable staff, a sommelier on site (who was quite helpful), and well timed meal arrivals (minus one or two lulls in refilling our wine).



The Bathrooms:



The bathrooms are a scene of tidy luxury - marbled sinks, upper quality disposable hand towels, and a generous reflective surface to re-set the part in your dome should it become disturbed while digging up tough to reach portions of bone marrow.  It gives you pretty much everything you need.

The Experience:

Heat - The Near Edgy Masterpiece
Tuesday
Sep212010

Feed Your Soul at Dell'Anima



This week’s review is of Dell’ Anima, located at 38 8th Avenue in the West Village.  In Italian, Dell’ Anima translates as “This Joint is the Muthaf****** Chronic.”  So much for the provinciality of gangsta rap!

No, seriously… I think, literally, it means – “Of the Soul.”  But feel free to comment and correct me, and risk sounding like a complete pompous, know-it-all smart ass. Anyway, my soul was pretty damn hungry… and I was looking forward to stepping inside.

Sis volunteers to get us both a drink – we have to wait about 30 mins for a spot to sit down on this crowded Saturday night, so we eek our way to the bar.  Elana orders a glass of red wine, while I opt for the Lombardi Sangria; similar to a normal sangria with some strong and syrupy supplement, which diminished the ordinary sweetness of sangria in favor of stronger drink.  And at $12 a pop, I was half expecting the bartender to instantly morph into a dancing coyote ugly babe – but the drink is damn good.

“Excuse me, Elana?  We have two spots open at the chef’s table.”  Wonderful.  For those unaware, Dell’Anima has a “chef’s table” dining option:  about 6-8 open spots overlooking the kitchen to watch their masters at work.  It’s very fast paced and entertaining – 3 cooks doing the restaurant version of the 3-man weave inside a 10 square foot area while churning out artful, sophisticated plates.



To kick things off, we get three types of bruschetta: The Rapini Pesto with walnuts and Pecorino, The Ricotta, and the Cannellini with preserved tangerine.  Each item comes in its own bowl coupled with basket of untouched bread.  As we dip pieces of bread into each, it is hard to determine a favorite; each is different.  The Pesto has a cool, but spicy kick to it; the Ricotta is creamy, yet light and the Cannelini is similar to an oily hummus, yet more rich and golden in color.

As an antipasti, Elana and I split Quail topped with prosciutto garnished with grapes and bits of (what we think was) Parmesan.  Dreamboat City.  It is loaded with flavor, as the fatty quail, teamed with the salty, also fatty prosciutto, make an awesome yet not-overdone combination.  The bird is effortlessly devoured, as are the grapes and Parmesan cubes.



For pasta, Elana selects the Gnocchi with pickled pork and some sort of sharp cheese, while I order the Orechiette with bone marrow.  The Gnocchi, which of course is homemade, is tremendous.  Glorious potato dumplings, cozily nestled between delicate hunks of pickled pork – which, by the way, form the foundation for its sauce – and under shaved layers, of aged cheese.  The Orechiette was equally impressive – small shells of pasta, moderately covered in oil and well placed bits of bone marrow – which adds huge flavor.  Bone marrow is kind of like clusters of fat, mixed with butter, injected with cholesterol – a steady diet of this would probably cause you to drop dead – but for now, it’s just awesome.  And it just sounds cool, too:

Q: “What did you have for dinner tonight?

A: Oh, you know, some leftovers…

Q: What about you?

A: BONE MARROW

Needless to say, both meals were completely dominated.

We order some well earned after dinner drinks – Espresso for Elana, and Limoncello for me, which, not surprisingly was great – strong, smooth and sweet.



The service here was very attentive and frequent.  Never once was my water glass unfilled, nor were our drinks or orders neglected.  They even brought out an extra portion of bread to mop up the left over bruschetta.

The bathroom was down a flight of stairs.  It was a unisex room, but it smelled pretty good and had an Xlerator, which made me excited.



Feel free to take your shorty here, playas.  Definitely date appropriate.  Cramped and crowded at times, but who cares really.  A great place with little-to-no chance of disappointment.

Overall Experience - Heat
Wednesday
Aug182010

Terriers in the Bathroom!! (A Review of Sorella on the LES)



Today’s review is of Sorella, a Lower East Side Italian restaurant. The cuisine is inspired by the Piedmont region of Italy, as is the wait staff’s emphasis on hospitality.

Enter Elana and Mom (John could not be with us on this occasion. He was either golfing or golfing at the time).

We dined at the communal table in the front room, which I highly recommend for its lively atmosphere.

Our meal began with a recommendation on drinks – I wanted something sparkly. And pink. It was a girls’ night after all. I should note that the servers are very knowledgeable about their wine list (all Italian wines). Ours suggested the Gabray Tordera from the Veneto region, which satisfied both my requirements (pink and sparkly). Plus, it was delicious. So much so, that at first opportunity I am going to run out and purchase enough cases to fill my fall-out shelter. If I only had one.



On to the apps: Watermelon Salad and Arugula with Pickled Cherries.

The Watermelon Salad is perfect for summer: light & refreshing with added cashews and cucumbers. And as mom noted, the basil really brought out the flavor.

The Arugula with Pickled Cherries was my choice mostly because I’ve never had a pickled cherry. Imagine that. I would like to have some more. Specifically in this arrangement of bitter arugula, prosciutto, sunflower seeds and shaved Parmesan. A light lemony dressing topped it all off.

Mom and I then split two larger dishes: The Tajarin Pasta and the fried Monkfish.

Tajarin is a thin, ribbon pasta made with egg yolks. It was done perfectly with a lamb ragu, topped with a black pepper ricotta. Pistachios and mint graced the tops of this little mound of pasta like greenery on the hills of Piedmont. …aahhhh…I ate the whole thing. Almost licked the plate, but I held myself back.

The Monkfish was lightly battered and fried with avocados (also fried: yum!) and accompanied by a carrot slaw with an orange dressing.

While we were chowing down (in a very lady-like manner of course and ordering seconds of the Gabray), we overheard one of the servers mention that they serve Baccala, which is essentially salt cod – a very Italian thing. And also a very brave thing to put on a menu. I give them mad props for this, and will have to try it next time I’m there. Which might be tomorrow.

Time for dessert: GELATO. Sorella makes their own gelato and we tried the sampler bowl of three varieties: Chunk Sorella (a salted caramel with chocolate covered pretzels and some other wonderfulness), Giandujotto (hazelnut), and Pazzo (peanut butter – CHUNKY STYLE!).  All were amazing and we ended up fighting each other for the last spoonfuls (I won). Incidentally, “pazzo” means “crazy” in Italian.

Every dish at Sorella has a unique taste. Each dish is its own event, and the main ones change daily. As they say on their menu, “stasera abbiamo,” which means, “tonight we have...” A great reason to keep returning for the next wonderful dish they will create.



Also, they have a giant photo of Boston Terriers in their bathroom. That’s pretty cool too.

Overall Movie Equivalent: Heat - The Edgy Near-Masterpiece