After having a fabulous dinner at Bricco's a couple of months ago that came very close to the quality of food I have had from San Domenico in NYC (to my mind the best Italian restaurant in the US, at least for someone who grew up in Italy and has eaten at most of its top establishments) I was ready to declare it my favorite Italian spot in Boston. Finally a place that gave me an option for Italian food other than my own kitchen!
I went back again last night with a group of friend to whom I have been raving about the place and was in for a nasty surprise. Not only were we kept waiting to be seated for a full hour, the manager never once came over to apologize of to see that we were taken care of at the bar. OK so bad start but I knew I could rely on the food to put everything right. Not so fast.
There were only a couple of specials (I think that when I had been previously there were at least half a dozen and we ordered most of them) and the every antipasto was a miss. The ingredients were good (especially the morels, the tuna, and the bresaola) but the execution was poor and too much like fusion than Italian cuisine. The creamy enoteca style concoctions that came with various dishes were also lacking flavor, subtle or otherwise and did not complement the principle flavors on each plate. The saving grace was a lovely Trebbiano D'Abruzzo. To make matters worse the 1st food we were served arrived just after 10PM, and hour and a half after our reservation time. Our server was not the most attentive nor the most experienced and I was informed that our server from our previous wonderful experience at Bricco's was no longer with the restaurant which was disappointing as she really knew her food and especially wine.
After the antipasto's I asked who was in the kitchen as the food was nowhere near the standard my previous meal had led me to expect and I was told that Marissa was on an extended sabbatical to write some cook book (which will almost certainly be worth buying as the lady is a phenomenal cook)and that Chef F was in charge of things. Based on the antipasto we should have left then and there, not because the food was terrible but because if I am going to spend over $200 a head I would like something that is better than a mediocre experiment in fusion cuisine.
We had a duet of the gnocchi and mushroom risotto and it was decent though nothing more than that (though I will say that the mushrooms were of excellent quality and were well prepared) but the gnocchi tasted as though they had been sitting under the heat lamp for a while.
Our entrees were the lamb, the pork chop, the halibut, and the kobe beef. The only one that was worthy of a positive mention was the beef and its accompanying mushrooms and spinach. It was simple, flavorful, and within the expertise of the chef. The halibut was OK but seemed to have been sitting for a while and there was nothing noteworthy about the dish. The lamb was not good quality lamb to begin with having that slightly gamey flavor that the older lamb meat starts to get and was not helped by being dry and over done or had been sitting out too long and the whole dish also was not very inspired or flavorful. The barbaresco that the server recommended was also not particularly good as it was past its prime and lacked much in the way of character or finish. The baby bok choy was good and fresh and done perfectly.
A selection of deserts was brought out and the server said that they were compliments of the house (in fact they were added to the bill). Other than Bricco's famous bread pudding there was nothing of particular note.
I finished the meal with a selection of cheeses that were acceptable and a small glass of port.
Unfortunately this seems to me to be another case of a chef getting some notoriety and then branching off to market themselves while leaving their kitchen in the hands of less experienced personnel. It almost never works. Hopefully at some point Marissa will be back at Bricco's, until then I am open to suggestions.
Anyone been to San Domenico and know of an equivalent in Boston?
I noticed that Dante has opened and will try it soon, fingers crossed.