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Campanile's crowning achievement: It's the bread

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Campanile's crowning achievement: It's the bread

carnivore | Dec 4, 2003 07:21 PM

Lunch at Campanile, my second time being there, reinforced my initial instinct that the bread is what really shines; in this case, ciabatta, I believe, served with an exquisite french butter and good salt. Simply, it's that just-baked freshness, nearly-but-not- quite burnt, nutty taste factor, and chewiness-to-the-point-of-sticking-to-your-teeth texture that delivers a taste memory and that sets Campanile apart. I won't apologize for lauding this restaurant's mere bread basket over their prepared dishes, because frankly it's their most distinguished offering and is truly deserving.

Now on to the actual courses. For starters, it was the potato-fennel soup. It gets a B+ for clarity of flavor, freshness, and well-seasonedness, but it wasn't wowing. This is because in reality drizzling olive oil atop a puree and garnishing with a measly sprig of chervil doesn't really elevate soup all that much. What they should have done was highlighted the fennel (more of it, roasted perhaps, garnished with lots of fennel prawns, fennel oil) since it is a slightly more exotic ingredient and more powerfully aromatic than potato. But most kitchens assume we like all subtle flavors for finer dining and the ubiquitous potato fits the bill.

Main course was a seared albacore and grilled eggplant crustini, with aioli I guess. Pretty good and earns an A-. Again I'll come back just as strong in praise of the bread as the crowning jewel of the dish -- fantastically chewy, earthy, and other great adjectives I can't think of now. This was served with a side of mesculin greens which of course were dressed with far too much oil effectively greasifying my palette. By the way, when will restaurants learn that 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio in a vinegarette is far to fatty -- needs more bite.

Meal was rounded out by a machiato which I found kind of bitter. But then again I was only trying to be sophisticated for a twenty-something and haven't yet learned how to completely pull it off.

Overall I like this place, but thank god for the bakery next door that supplies their bread.

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