When you enter A Voce in the evening, you immediately get the sense that there is a deft mixture of several atmospheres here. On the one side is the warmth and hospitality of the traditional Italian restaurant, on another the buzz and chatter of a restaurant in vogue and with acoutrements to match, and on yet another the well-coiffed mannerisms of an elegant fine dining establishment.
The restaurant is warm, with tones of brown and grey, and strikingly long strands of wooden sticks hung on strands in alcoves along the restaurant's main wall. Warm incandescent light, soon to be banned, floods the atmosphere. The hostess took my coat and bag, and seemed friendly and confident. That's the tone of the whole restaurant.
I sat down, and ordered a glass of red wine. Service at A Voce is attentive, extremely so. I never had to wait more than a few moments before I got what I wanted, and an array of servers trained to watch you keeps it that way.
I ordered the sheep's milk ricotta appetizer, and a tortellini di zucca. The ricotta appetizer is a set of grilled italian bread served with a bowl brimming with a fresh, white, soft, mild, and spreadable cheese. The darkly grilled bread in contrast with the white cheese and the browns and grays of the bowl and table and the dramatic lighting all made for a very professional presentation. The bread itself was chewy and mild, and the cheese was subtle. The dish knew exactly what it wanted, and it got it -- it was striking and showed the elements perfect in simplicity. On the other hand, did I want a little salt, a little more spice? I did. So it was an excellent appetizer which accomplished its aim, but it's an aim that was just a little too bland for me. I still enjoyed it.
The tortellini was another piece of artistry. The color of the tiny bits of candied orange, the wistful flutterings of parmesan, and the clearly handcrafted pasta all came together. The earth-toned pasta seemed so natural to the environment around it. The zucca inside was sweet and soft and burst with natural freshness. This was a simple flavor, but the spices accented it and made it a great dish. I have to say this dish was slightly too sweet for me, but this is a subtle matter.
Finally, I ended with a baba rum. This rum-drenched cake came with a vanilla creme around the middle and top and was served with a citrus grapefruit salad on the side. This was a formidably complex array of flavors, and they went surprisingly well together. When the cake was served, my server poured aged rum over it. The sweetness of the moist cake, the slight aftertaste-edge of the rum, the soft comfort of the vanilla creme, and the light tartness of the citrus salad all danced against each other. This was a really great dessert. Again, artistry.
I left completely satisfied with A Voce. This is a restaurant that knows itself, what it wants to serve, how it wants to look and feel, and how it wants to treat its patrons. It is a high-end experience that is absolutely worth the money.
The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/