Started with a drink in the downstairs room of Excelsior which was packed at 7:45 then cleared out a tiny bit. The drink menu has every imaginable combination (most $11 and 12), I went for a midori martini and my friend got Scotch. Decided to try the artichoke app. w/ chick pea fries served with a creamy lemony sauce ($11). The fries were amazing but the edible portions of the artichoke were few and far between. The waitresses have oriental looking red tops, ours was efficient. Took a quick look at the dining room where our main impression was that the rug looked like it was from the 50's and hadn't been washed in that long.
Via Matta was crowded but not nearly as packed as when we tried to have dinner before, probably a combination of the holiday weekend, smoking ban and semi icky weather. The bread and olive oil were good, wines by the glass offered some unsual choices. We got the chicken liver app. which was as good as everyone says and split an arugula salad w/ shaved parm that was nice and peppery ($10 and 11). My halibut cooked in parchment on porcini mushrooms was okay, didn't notice the foie gras that was cooked so it infused in or something like that. The bolognese was also as good as everyone says, funny how a simple dish can be that good ($28 and $18). His side of grilled asparagus was great. Should have stopped there but had the date bread pudding w/ orange crema and something else that I can't remember (what a crappy web site VM has, nothing but a front page unless my server is being weird again). My friend's chocolate dessert was like a molded pudding on a meringue cookie. Okay but not that chocolately (he's a choc. freak). The waiter went missing when we were ready to order was but was decent and nice overall. It *is* very loud in there but it's fun, esp. watching the older gentlemen with the younger blondes.