We had a nice dinner at Baldoria (249 49TH ST @ 8TH AVE 212 582 0460)last night so I wanted to add my note to the bi polar reviews this place gets. This was suggested to us by my SO's coworker, and since she's not really a NY'er, I wasn't all that revved up about the place. Having been to Rao's some time ago, I was interested to see how this affiliate/spinoff/prodigal son would do.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were 25 min late for our reservation, but happily the restaurant had saved our corner banquet booth, despite the waiting hordes at the bar and foyers. We were seated right away and brought baskets of tasty bread, oil and butter. A waiter came and took our drinks orders, which we recieved swiftly, and sipped while mulling over what looked like a small menu.
I started with the pan seared octopus on broccoli rabe. It was excellent -- juicy, flavorful, pleasing to the eye, and well proporotioned. It looked (to me) like the others folks salads were all a bit on the small side. I would really suggest folks try the pollopi (sp?) if they visit since the octopus seems to be a house specialty as a starter.
We next had the lemon chicken, made legendary by Rao's up in Spanish Harlem. Wow. This dish is absolutely amazing. The chicken was perfectly cooked and seared and the lemon sauce was bright, clean and layered with different herb's flavors. This is the benchmark for lemon chicken should be like...so unlike all those other crappy places serving up breaded cutlets with ready made lousy lemon goop. Everyone raved about this. (This is on the prix fixe menu happily)
Then we had some veal scallopini. This was also excellent, although not particularly large in portion. The veal is juicy and cut in wonderfully paper thin slivers, soaking up the olive and tomato sauce perfectly. Mashed potatoes is the official side for this dish, and it seemed ok. I then tried some of the red snapper which was also good, and sporting a super crispy crust, but it seemed kind of skimpy for the price.
With all of this we had a bottle of Santa Cristina ($29) which was massively overpriced for what is usually a solid $8 sangiovese. I bit my tongue and did not complain, because the other options were all dramatically more costly. This is an expensive place to guzzle vino. The stemware we were offered was weak, perhaps because the server decided low end bottles don't merit the good glasses. I noticed that, but otherwise the service was really excellent.
For dessert the ladies had the chocolate pudding and the apple tart. The apple tart seemed like the better of the too, showing a buttery fluffy crust that would violate all the trans fat guidelines for 3 blocks worth of dining establishments. Crisco is king for this.
I really liked the food here, the others on my table were not as impressed, but did acknowledge that I had ordered better items, that Rao's is known for doing well. This an expensive celebratory place and its really hard to get out of here for less than $60 per person. Figure on more to enjoy the experience.
On that note, the restaurant has a lot a of character - jukebox, old style bar, big booth seating and lots of wiseguy wannabes waving their arms around, drinking and talking big. Watching the scene is half the fun at this place.
I'd come back. But I know others mileage here has varied.
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