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Manhattan

Cacio e Pepe (report)

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Cacio e Pepe (report)

The Turtle (Bay) Dove | Feb 15, 2005 08:22 AM

Cacio e Pepe has been getting quite a bit of love on this board recently, so I just wanted to add my dissenting opinion. I went on a Friday night about a week and a half ago. We showed up just before 8 and had no trouble getting a table, although the restaurant got pretty full not long afterwards.

As an appetizer, I had a dish of soft polenta topped with a mixture of raisins, octopus, and ? (carrots and ?). Anyway, it wasn't indedible, but wasn't great. It was a nice demonstration to me why octupus is so often pared with citrus, which I think emphasizes the sweetness in octopus. Next to the sweet raisins and the creamy polenta, the octupus just tasted somewhat fishy. I don't think it was bad octopus - lifted out of the dish it was perfectly fine and not poorly cooked (ie not rubbery). The taste combination was just not very successful. I've had polenta (but fried, not soft) with squid elsewhere in the past which worked quite well, but the creamy polenta and sweet accompaniments cried out for a rich meat like lamb or even duck - not octopus! My bf had a puntarelle salad with an anchovy dresing which I didn't taste but he was happy with.

For a main course, I got the braised oxtail. I wish the waitress had pointed out to me that the oxtail was served on a big pile of soft polenta (not listed on the menu), as I didn't need more polenta by that point! Anyway, I felt this dish too was ok but not great. I ordered oxtail because I am a fan of fatty gelatinous stuff, but wasn't expecting it to be shredded and off the bone. The way it was shredded meant it was nearly impossible to get any meat without large portions of fat etc., unless I was willing to spend time carefully dissecting each bite. And I just can't take too much fat without getting sick (which I hate!), so I had to give up pretty quickly on the dish. That problem, though, I am willing to admit was mine and not the fault of the plate of food in front of me. On the side, though, was something that seemed like a rectangle of some sort of gelled carrot (which was ok) and a rectangle of salty celery gelatin. The celery was completely inedibly salty, in fact.

On the other hand, the celery mixed in instead with my boyfriend's main was ok as his dish was desperately in need of salt (and I usually find most food over-salted). He got a special of orecchiette with lamb's liver. I wasn't crazy about it, because the flavor was pretty much unadulterated liver and I'm a bit iffy about lamb and calf's liver (sometimes like it in some preparations, but not always). It was seriously underflavored, though, and he wasn't crazy about it despite the fact that he likes liver.

It was a pleasant enough atmosphere and the service (except not warning me that I was ordering two big plates of polenta) was fine. The execution of the dishes was good enough that I can imagine that we just ordered some clunkers and it would be possible to have a decent meal there - I know there have been raves for the eponymous cacio e pepe. I'm not rushing back though!

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