Monday, October 13, 2008

birthday dinner #3: Del Posto

since Priya's family was around on my actual birthday, we went for our own version of my birthday dinner a few days later. Knowing just what I like, Priya arranged for us to eat at Del Posto! (the enoteca, of course).

I got there a little bit early and had a Scotch while I waited for Priya. It cost $16! She arrived and we went to our table and immediately a woman appeared with a tray to carry my Scotch to the table on. The table was twelve feet away. Okay. Not exactly my kind of restaurant experience, but fun for a birthday. I hoped the food would stack up. (No pictures, sadly, due to the dim light).

The menu was very simple--no fancy descriptions, no crazy foods, but four or five simple meats, a few simple appetizers, etc--prix fixe.

We ordered octopus all Griglia and calamari fritti to start with. The octopus was hacked into chunks that resembled large pieces of lobster or crab leg more than slimy tentacles. Each chunk was grilled with some dark char marks here and there. Astoundingly, it wasn't rubbery in the slightest--the pieces even had a texture similar to lobster chunks, and an amazing flavor that far surpassed octopus I've had previously. I think it takes an expert hand to grill it just right so it achieves such a great flavor and yet remains unrubbery--Del Posto could not have improved on it. The calamri was likewise at the top of its game, with an impossibly light fried crust. The calamari was tangy with lemon and, again, had no trace of rubberiness.

for our primi, we got pennette con cavolfiori (cauliflower, one of my favourites) and garganelli al ragu Bolognese. the cauliflower pasta was delicious, a very different flavor than I'd expect at an Italian restaurant (Priya asked our Italian waiter where it was from, and after a moment's confusion during which he thought she was asking HIS village, we were told it was from nowhere, from here). The garganelli itself was a dark green, looking almost like shiny small leaves folded up on themselves, but had a surprisingly fresh taste, not starchy and wheaty like darker green pastas often do. And the ragu covering it was delicious; I'm glad we got a more traditional dish to accompany the more experimental cauliflower one. I found myself chasing the bits of meat around my plate to get every last bite, and (true to Batali's hectoring) there was no sauce to sop up--they had put on the perfect amount to coat every noodle and no more.

for our secundi, I got the pork arista and Priya got another traditional Italian (-American) dish--veal Marsala. Both were done very, very simply; my pork was a fat chop, cooked quite rare, that had a delicious deep flavor and somehow maintained its juiciness even on the more charred side. The cooks here must be very well-trained, because between the pork and the octopus, they know the precise temperatures and times to make the dishes perfect every time. Priya's veal Marsala was very good, but I think I prefer my own crappier but more democratic version, with mushrooms and supermarket Marsala wine. Del Posto's version was very well done, very fancy, with medallions of veal in a perfect sauce, but I preferred my pork.

before dessert, our friend Dan (who works in the kitchen) sent us out a palate-cleaning cup of Concord grape/olive oil sorbet, which was fantastic. I thought it might even surpass the olive oil gelato I'd had at Otto last year. While olive oil ice cream sounds gross, it actually works perfectly, and the olive plus tart Concord grape taste were synergistic--quite a rare gem.

then dessert came. Instead of ordering, though, I was surprised with a candle burning in a birthday panna cotta! it was coconut-flavored and very rich, and was scattered with pulpy-sweet pineapple chunks--quite delicious.

before we left, we popped in to see Dan, and my God if the kitchen isn't a stressful pace. Dan appeared to say hello, but he seemed charged up, and his eyes kept darting over to the food he'd left, and we quickly sent him back to his miz after thanking him.

when all was said and done, I thought that the food was worth every ounce of praise it had received. Despite the somewhat overly fancy atmosphere, the quality of the actual dinner made it one of the better meals I've ever had. and it didn't cost me a dime! Thank you, Priya!

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