Ate dinner at 112 last weekend for the first time ever (i felt it was the one conspicuous chink in my local "foodie" cred - for all that has been written about foodieism vs. being a chowhound i think its safe to say with chef becker's beard nomination(s) and my love for promoting the best (if not most obscure) in our local food scene that it was a major failing i had not tried it sooner).
Overall the food was pretty good, and a few items shined, but it was somewhat flat, dull and heavy, with consistent misses or near misses that troubled us.
We ordered widely - starting off with the veal tongue w/ soba and sweetbreads in clam sauce. The clam sauce was great, the sweetbreads nicely cooked, but substantially underseasoned. this would be a theme for the night. the veal/soba combo was a bit odd, but worked for me, though this too could have used some more salt and acid to bring out the flavors - the veal tongue was breaded and fried very well but we all felt like this preparation didnt really highlight all the things we love about tongue.
I ordered a single country style rib with salsa picante which came with a small wedge of lime. this was delicious, if a bit precious for 5 dollars. id easily order this as an entree option if it came in a 3-for 12 or 13 dollar package and feel like i was getting a better deal. well seasoned, perfectly cooked, really nice flavors.
the fried mortadella and grougere sandwich was also very good, light, cheesy pastry and delectably meaty mystery meat (ok ok i know its not technically bologna but its close enough). this came out with a really nice grainy mustard and some pickles i believe to be home made (i prefer mine less sweet but these were good and cut the unending richness of the sandwich).
escarole w/ anchiovies was good, if a bit oily, the escarole was nice and tender but not overcooked and paired well, if somewhat boringly, with the saltiness of the little fishes.
tagliatelle with foie gras meat balls was somewhat of a disappointment. for all the hype the meatballs certainly were delicious but i thought the pasta was a bit overcooked so that within a few minutes of getting the plate set in front of me it had formed a large mass - and there was no real sauce/contrasting flavor to speak of. maybe it was misfired in the kitchen, but if not im just not sure i get this dish, it, like the veal tongue with soba, seemed an odd if potentially vialbe combo, but it just didnt click for me on the plate.
gnocchi were good, but like the tagliatelle needed something to balance their excellent texture. these were delicious, for sure, but couldnt hold a candle to mertiage's version, and by the time we had each eaten a spoonfull or two we were kind of over them. again the flavors seemed rather unidimensional and flat.
after the delicious pea soup we had enjoyed at alma we got a side order of the shell peas which were simple and very tasty with just some oil and a bit of good parm these were a hit, but didnt really highlight the kitchens skills beyond being able to identify a seasonable vegetable and cook it appropriately (a skill i appreciate as much as the next guy, but it doesnt scream cutting edge/inventive to me).
the bacon egg and harissa sandwich should have been a no-brainer hit, these are things which it is easy to love. and while we enjoyed the sandwich we all agreed the execution was laking - the toast seemed dry, the balance of the ingredients needed some work and the egg was a bit overly fried for our tastes. it sounds contradictory since i mentioned the food's heaviness elsewhere but this was one case where we could have used some more fat - the toast the sandwich was served on really detracted from, rather than presenting and uplifting, its contents.
the real miss of the night was the pork tenderloin. our server asked how it should be cooked and we asked for it med-rare. when it came out i thought we had been sent the ahi because the insides were so red. i only had a small bite of this and it was ok, and the person who ordered it was fine with the done-ness but our servers utter lack of interest or even ability to discern the difference between seared outside, cold inside (for pork!) and medium rare was somewhat disappointing. the medallions of pork were also the most woefully sad looking things, in terms of cut. if they were as big across as my thumb id be surprised, and milk caps might be a better analog to give you an idea of portion (3 of them for 18 bucks).
other than our servers mis-step in handling the pork done-ness issue (we asked if she thought it had been done to medium rare, she said "i guess" and basically dared us to tell her it was unacceptable instead of getting the picture) she was rather cold and disinterested in us which didnt make us feel welcome in the least. further when we asked for cold butter (see previous posts about my father's cold butter evangelism) she said she could go see if there was any and returned to tell us that there was no cold butter in entire restaurant (!). the warm bread was delicious despite this.
in the end we ordered a ton of food, a glass of decent wine and a drink for 140 dollars, which while its no bargain didnt leave us feeling ripped off either. despite that there seemed to be a lot of interesting or adventurous flavor pairings that somehow did not live up to their billing or really, obviously, could have used an added component to pick things up. we kept coming back to how different this meal was from the one we had had at alma just a few nights before- where everything seemed effortless and elegant, where 112 was really trying hard and not quite getting there. i appreciate the place for experimental and innovative cuisine (and understand that is not, in any sense, what alma is trying for) but there would not be a nanosecond of contemplation before going back to alma again, where i would think about a return trip to 112 in terms of where else i could spend my money. id love to hear if there were things we didnt order that we should have, or if other people have had recent, different experiences.
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