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Chef's Tasting Menu at Spiaggia (long)

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Chef's Tasting Menu at Spiaggia (long)

Akatonbo | Jan 3, 2006 08:52 AM

Last Thursday we went to Spiaggia and had the Chef's Tasing Menu (one of 2 offered, it's a 7-course menu for $135 per person).

The amusee was a marinated scallop draped with a single sliver of baby chive. It was delicious. It was followed by the first course of the tasting menu - a squid egg. I kept asking the waiter "you mean, squid roe?" - no, it was a single egg (or, actually, 1/2 an egg) - as large as a small hen's egg, but flatter, and cut in two. It was served bathed in olive oil and topped with caviar. It was tastless, as far as I could tell - the olive oil and caviar providing the only taste. The combination of the oil, the fishy caviar and the strange texture of the egg all combined to make a quite bizzare experience. Squids are resillient creatures, and the egg is no different. I love caviar, but don't eat it with olive oil. This course was pretty weird.

The next course was a piece of excellent prosciutto wrapped around home-made cheese (either ricotta or mozzarella, I can't remember which) with a dab of intense fig jam on the side - excellent.

This was followed by a course that I cannot completely recall (sorry), except for the slice of crispy dewlap on the side. The piece of dewlap was very good (I guess the item it was paired with was forgettable).

The next course was a sort of pheasant burrito - a sheet of canneloni wrapped around a very tasty mix of braised pheasant with chestnuts. It was excellent.

The "main" course was a trio of lamb: lamb sweetbreads, lamb cheek with polents, and lamb tongue, a dollop of each. Except for the tongue, they were good - nothing spectacular. The tongue was inedible, very tough, and unpleasant. I left it on my plate after one bite, and the waiter never asked why.

We then had a cheese course. Many cheeses are presented and, with the help of the cheese expert, you chose three each, so the success of this course depends on your choices. I lucked out with a nice cheese in each of the three categories (creamy, semisoft and hard) - my husband wasn't as lucky, and was disappointed with his choices.

Then came dessert - a cappucino mousse in a small cup - quite prosaic - pretty tasty, but nothing to rave about. Of course, you're presented also with their famous "jewel box" of little tidbits that are all delicious.

With all this, we each had the $80 per person wine pairings. Since the seven pours amounted to a little over 3 glasses of wine, the $80 is pretty steep (especially since the wines were only good, as opposed to excellent). We would have been better off ordering by the glass, we felt.

We feel overall that it though several individual courses were quite good, the total experience (given the high price) was disappointing. The pressure on a chef to have a tasting menu is extreme, I guess, but not every cuisine is suited to it. I think it works when the food is the "contemporary" cuisine of Avenues or Alinea. Here it was as if the chef was trying to trendy-ize the more traditional regional Italian cuisine he does so well, with mixed results. We should have ordered off the a la carte menu and had the more traditional dishes we were looking forward to. Also, the woman who waited on us was unctious and just plain irritating, a good example of why everything - including service, works to make or break a dining expereince.

We still love Spiaggia - we'll just be more careful next time.

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