Revisited after a long hiatus (having given up after a couple of unimpressive dinner visits with off-putting service), as I read recently that chef Frasca is decamping to Nantucket to take over Straight Wharf with Amanda Lydon. (No truth to the rumor that it will be renamed SO Rivalry.)
Bartending is significantly upgraded since the early days, some real craft in the drink-making. Probably doesn't hurt that they've hired some ex-Dedo crew. Dinner is quite lovely and delicious, with some unusual ingredients put to more than just novelty use. Carrot gnocchi with rabbit, pickled cippolini, and some bitter green is lovely, and a gigantic portion for a first course. A frisee salad features a poached egg has a crunchy coating that has me wondering how it was achieved (the yolk is properly runny) but not thinking it's an improvement. I'm hardly a dour traditionalist (you won't hear me going,"That's not how they make them in France"), but think this version suffers from too much creativity: the abundance of serrano and bits of mango don't work for us at all. This too is a huge portion. We get a tiny amuse after this course (a pureed soup with a bit of crunchy vegetable garnish, wish I could remember details) that is very nice.
Entrees are both quite successful, also rather large: a pollo al mattone with a distinctly Middle Eastern (perhaps Turkish?) lilt: cumin, yogurt, pomegranate seeds, rabe, walnuts, and "heirloom chickpeas" (ha!). A massive veal porterhouse is also delectable, done medium per the chef's suggestion, and accompanied by a huge pile of shocking-green ramp spaetzle, drenched in butter and flecked with onions and good bacon. A dessert of beignets is wonderful: perfect fried dough, good banana ice cream, and a double-shot of Mexican hot chocolate that I believe was chili-spiced in addition to the usual cinnamon. Really very nice.
The wine list is also much improved from what I remember early on: all over the map, still plenty of very interesting, rarely-seen selections, but many more reasonable (under-$70) bottles. I'm a little puzzled as to why most American wines are classified under the "romantic" heading. Service is good but not quite excellent; it seems more attentive when the place is jamming than when things start to slow down a bit (which as a late diner I unfortunately experience a lot). Portion sizes seem to have nearly doubled since the early days, likely a concession to diners who expect doggie bags (much like Prezza did) -- I can't say this is an improvement in my book, though I'll be able to factor this in on future visits and not grossly over-order. An above-average meal in this price range, about $120 inclusive not counting wine. We'll likely return before this chef moves on.
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