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Aquerello, SF

Limster | Sep 29, 200105:17 PM

Just ate at Acquerello last night. Definitely the most expensive Italian place I've been to. The only other Italian place I know that is so pricey is Palio (which I haven't eaten at.). Acquerello is not a bargain at its price/performance, but I thought it was a fair deal. Overall it was a fine meal, when one considers the decor/ambiance and the efficient unsnooty and friendly service.

The menu is organized with sections of antipasti, primi and secondi. The portions are small enough for 3 courses + dessert. The food is well cooked, the flavors are nuanced and some of the dishes were labor intensive compositions with several components. None of the dishes disappointed, all were at least good or above average and the occasional rendition was fantastic.

Decorwise, the dining room is washed with a pastel quality and soft colors and textures abound. The setting is intimate and soothing in a peachy kind of way, and with tables well spaced, the sound level is on the quiet side of comfortable.

Here's a summary of the dishes I tasted:

quail antipasta - flavorful juicy breast meat rolled around some kind of greens (loved it!)

good leek tart filled with a mix of cheese, peppers and of course leeks. Crisp flaky pastry.

the veal ravioli was excellent, and well elevated by the perfume of lemon peel, finely grated into thin delicate curls. that flavor did wonders to the more earthbound veal.

the gnocchi in 4 colours (beet, spinach, regular and 1 more thing that I forgot, golden beets perhaps) had great texture but my palate wasn't subtle enough to distinguish between the different varieties without looking at them.

a fillet of dorade (a mediterrenean seabass, according to the waiter) was a fishy kind of fish (as the waiter described), but the flavor was well tamed by sweet bright and thin stripes of orange peel. Not bad.

Veal rolls under a layer of pastry (imagine beef wellington - the kids version). great springy texture in the veal and good contrast with the pastry. Quite likeable.

for dessert, a lemon shortcake sandwiching a slab of mascarpone ice cream with a generous entourage of berries. The vinegar in the sauce was amazing, bringing a different kind of sourness to the dessert than just the lighht acid from the berries or the lemon. ice cream steps in at this point for a rich counterpoint, as well as a warm/cold interplay with the lemon cake. Marvellous!

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