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Restaurants & Bars 3

Fri at Zucca, Vday at Grace, grouper from Bristol Farms Sunday

tokyoastrogirl | Feb 17, 200403:16 PM

Weekend of goooood eatin' started off at Zucca on Friday night- I stupidly thought we could go anywhere we wanted on Friday after making plans with friends at around 4:00 PM to go out to dinner at around 7:00. After calling about 7 different places and being told they were full, we called Zucca which had an opening at 7:15PM. We piled in the car and were on our way.

Arrived at Zucca and were seated promptly. It was our first visit there- the atmosphere was formal but relaxing. We ordered an Echelon Pino Noir and started with three starters to share between the four of us: Wood grilled polenta with porcini mushrooms and Tallegio cheese- I expected firm squares of polenta topped with the mushrooms and cheese but it turned out to be a softer cube topped with said toppings. I thought the mushrooms overpowered any flavor the grilled polenta or the cheese had. My dinner companions were also not impressed. We also had the wood oven fired bread with crushed artichokes, garlic, olibe oil and parmesan- a much better choice. The garlicy artichoke puree was a perfect match to the crunchy/chewy grilled bread. The last started was a plate of assorted cured meats- all excellent and an extremely generous portion. At least 4 slices of 7 different kinds of salami and cured ham.

For the main course I had the only semi-disappointment- the Pizza con Zucca Rosa- pumpkin, carmelized onions, goat cheese and smoked ham pizza. Although it sounded mouth-watering, the pureed pumpkin was too much for the thin crust and too close in texture to the goat cheese to give it any depth. It felt like I was eating a mushy mess. The flavors, however, did compliment one another and it turned out to be one of those dishes that, after a few bites, gets a little better. The other diners, however, had better luck. My husband's swordfish was juicy, tender and fresh and my friend's linguini with clams were perfectly al dente and lightly flavored. My other friend had perfectly made ricotta raviolis dressed with fresh tomato and basil sauce. They make all of their pastas fresh and I would have to say, the pasta is the star of this place. I would go again just to order the swordfish as well- it was perfect. Good service. 3 startes, 2 pastas, 1 pizza, 1 main, 2 bottles of pino = $175.00.

The next night my husband and I went on our maiden voyage to Grace for Vday. 6:00 PM reservations and we were promptly seated. Our very friendly and polite waitress came to our table to say Happy Valentines and left us with the prix fixe menu ($75/person) to contelmplate what to order. There were 3 choices of starters, mains, and 2 choices of dessert. We made our decisions and opted not to go for the $40 wine pairing nor the $75 premium wine pairing and ordered 2 glasses of champagne to start and a bottle of the Gary Ferrel pino for the meal instead. Everyone started with a crab salad amuse- a pile of fresh crab mixed with ribbons of basil and mint with fresh peas...it was SO DELICIOUS! I was sad to see my empty plate after trying to take my time to savor every morsel. Next I had the tuna tartare- it was constructed in a way that was difficult to eat and extremely overpowered by the seaweed so that you couldn't really taste the flavor of what must have been excellent grade tuna. The seaweed and tuna were piled on top of each other and then wrapped in thin slices of daikon- hard to cut through without toppling the entire thing and just picking it apart. When my husband's scallops arrived I wished that I had opted for that as well. Two gigantic scallops swimming in a beet reduction.....meaty, succulent, sweet and pillowy soft. We both ordered the black bass with homemade gnocchi, artichoke hearts (fried in bacon fat) and asparagus, all in a lobster reduction. The asparagus were sweet and tender, the bass flaky and light...the homemade basil-flavored gnocchi were excellent as well. Lastly we had the plate of homemade cookies/chocolates/pastries for dessert which were beautiful and tasty and the cherry/almond bread-pudding-like dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Both were very good. I have to say that the warm, friendly, helpful and intelligent service + the quiet ambience of Grace are just as good as the food. You can hear the hum of conversation but cannot actually hear other people's banter, and you can clearly hear your dinner companion. So nice after being in so many places where I had to read lips to have a conversation. After our meal/dessert, the waitress brought over what looked like a Chinese takeout box with a big bow. She said it was their "morning after" box with one chocolate/cranberry scone, one fig pastry, one sticky bun and one chocolate criossant to "continue the experience over coffee tomorrow morning." What a brilliant idea. Total genuis.....and the pastries were a hit. Total for 2 prix fixe + 1 bottle of wine, 2 glasses of champagne and 1 glass of red = $254.00.

Sunday I just made dinner for 6 people- and I gotta say the grouper from Bristol Farms is excellent. 2nd time making it (once Mexican, Sunday was french) and it is just a damn fine piece of meaty fish that stands up well to any sauce. 6- 6oz steaks for $43.00. Even if they don't have it in the case, they usually have in the back and will cut exactly as you like.

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