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Via Matta, Park Plaza, Boston

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Via Matta, Park Plaza, Boston

Limster | Oct 25, 2003 02:16 AM

[Disclaimer: one of my pals works in the kitchen here. I'm pretty sure she was not aware that I was there and probably wasn't even there the night I ate there.]

The hamachi carpaccio is lightly dressed with olive oil, a sprig of herb, a dash of salt and a crack of pepper, all carefully tweaked and in harmony. The fish is wonderful, rich and soft, dispersing as it touches the tongue. The best part are the vivid red pomegranate seeds, adding not only visual pleasure, but an immensely pleasing texture as one's teeth slides past the thin pulpy surface and crunches into the seed. The fruitty flavours convey a soft sour to balance the luxurious fish and a bright point of sweetness for contrast.

Clever elemental touches like the pomegranate seeds are common, subtly defying rustic expectations of traditional Italian cooking, but always low-key and nuanced. They feel natural. I love the resulting simple, straightforward but refined dishes that emerge.

Precisely al dente sheets of pasta come in a a good sauce, the rich essence of chicken. Tender shreds of chicken and good supple and softly crunchy mushrooms (hen of the woods, porcinis) relive a classic combination.

Cod is cooked beautifully, moist fibre upon moist fibre. The tangy tomatoey broth is great against the fish, and scattered with all sorts of goodness, an aura of basil, ripe wet cherry tomatoes, complex earthy olives, fragrant pine nuts and the occasional golden raisin that really brightens the fish, another bit of cleverness.

There's plenty of moist soft crumb in the olive oil cake, dabbed with what seems like marmalade, sweet orange with its attractive bitter rind adding a sweet sharpness to the cake.

The scoop of sunflower seed ice cream next to it makes one willingly abandon Toscaninni's and Christina's, nary a second thought. It's the *best* scoop of ice cream I've had in Boston. The texture of the ice cream is exquisite, so smooth that the surface remains unblemished after each scoop. The milky ice cream feels so light, yet the richness is somehow evident, except that it never develops into gooey stickiness -- it just glides. Fans of the superlative Out of a Flower ice cream (Austin, TX) will truly appreciate this scoop, it's even more refined texturally.

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