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Erbaluce Redux - 2/15/09


Restaurants & Bars 10

Erbaluce Redux - 2/15/09

WTF51 | Feb 19, 2009 09:09 AM

4 of us went on Sunday, and since there hasn't been much posted since the initial flurry, I though I would share.

We all enjoyed our meal and experience very much. Here are my thoughts, after reading others comments and our dinner.

1. The menu is interesting, in terms of ingredients and preparation. Lombardia is a generally overlooked region, so there is lots of unfamiliar territory for us. This is a plus for any serious diner.

2. The service was attentive and personal. Joan, one of the owners, took our orders and served the wine. Chef Charles was in the room all evening, and stopped at every table. Both of them were interested in answering our questions and making sure we had a great meal and excellent experience.

3. The wine list is great. I was very surprised by all the comments about the lack of affordability. There are a number of wines under $50, several around $40, and as Joan pointed out, all of the wines by the glass are available by the bottle for 4x the glass price.

I think the way the list is organized may lead to these comments. The list is by geography, and then by alphabet (I think). That means that very expensive wines are next to inexpensive wines, instead of at the end of the section or on a Reserve list. Maybe there is sticker shock for some people. For Boston, there are probably more wines over $70 than most lists, but I find this range of prices attractive.

There are lots of very interesting and unusual wines. Since we didn't want to go with the familiar Tuscan or Piedmont choices, we asked for help. I gave Joan a price target of $80 or less. She immediately recommended a very good, and unusual wine for $42. (Unfortunately, I didn't note the name.) It was almost frizzante and had great fruit. It was from Lombardy I believe. It was a great match for our fish, squab, rabbit and boar mains.

4. The cooking is subtle. I may have been influenced by Devra First's review, but I found that, in comparison to other high end Italian restaurants, the flavors at Erbaluce are more subdued. In some ways, you have to work harder to figure out what is going on in a dish, but the effort reveals lots of layers and tastes.

5. The food ranged from good to excellent. Two of us split the gnocchi with boar ragu and the others had an arugula and dandelion salad. The gnocchi were light and wonderful and the sauce was perfect. I felt that the wilted bitter greens that were placed over the dish were too strong for the other flavors, but my co-eater liked them. The salads were an exercise in simplicity - fresh greens with some shaved vegetables, lightly dressed. Very nicely done.

The boar has been written about extensively, and didn't disappoint. The rabbit was a big hit, and was tender which is always a challenge. The squab was very good.

I did not like my entree as much as my DC's liked theirs. I had a fish, mormora, that I felt was slightly overcooked and lacked a distinctive personality. It had fascinating scales that had popped up in perfect rows across the skin after cooking, but I didn't like the taste they imparted.

Desserts were great with 1 slight imperfection. I had a cheese plate that was among the best I have ever had, anywhere, including France. 5 cheeses from Vermont and Italy, headlined by an aged Pecorino. The plate included pistachios, honey and a delicious tiny apple. The panna cotta and the poached pear were also excellent. The chocolate tort shell was too thick and somewhat tough, but was otherwise excellent.

6. Love the understated room and the artwork and think that the bar would be a great place to have a low key supper. The bar has an entirely different and interesting menu that can be ordered in the dining room. And vice versa.

Bottom line, Erubaluce is not quite perfection, but pretty close, and more interesting to me than many other Italian or French restaurants in the general price range.

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