Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Del Posto Decadence

Christmas in New York - and I can think of no better way to celebrate than a sumptuous meal at Del Posto, Mario Batali's classy northern Italian joint in Chelsea.

Recently given a glowing review by the New York Times, Del Posto offers excellent service, a luxurious ambiance (think lots of flickering candlelight and red velvet), and perfectly prepared food (especially pastas and meat).

In fact, the only slightly off note of the entire evening was the amuse bouche. Typically a single perfect bite, the Del Posto amuse was instead a platter of small bites meant to represent the Feast of the Seven Fishes (so, perhaps this was a holiday thing). Some of the bites were quite amazing - a smoked scallop stood out in particular. Otherwise this just didn't seem like the right kind of thing to serve at such a fancy restaurant.

However, some Prosecco helped it all go down.

There are several tasting menu options at Del Posto; we chose the five course meal, in which you select your own starter and main course and then pick two pastas to share for the whole table. Dessert follows. It was more than enough food.

Among the starters chosen were a thinly sliced prosciutto, a salad of roasted autumn vegetables with black truffle dressing, and a spicy, fried calamari with capers and a mustard sauce. The prosciutto was, well, prosciutto. The autumn veggies were hearty (this salad was huge) and definitely elevated by the creamy truffle dressing, but the real standout was the calamari. The batter itself was spicy, while still remaining ethereally light and crispy. Total awesomeness.

The two pastas we chose to share were both completely amazing. We started with the Caramelle di Gorgonzola Dolce with Black Truffle Butter, basically beautiful little bow-tie pastas stuffed with Gorgonzola and drizzled with a rich butter sauce lazed with black truffle. Each person was served perhaps three of these; they were so decadent that three almost seemed like too many.

The second pasta was a homemade green garganelli tubular pasta with a ragu Bolognaise that many Italian grandmothers would probably commit murder for. Ugh. It was fabulous.

For the mains, two of our number decided to share the Grilled Veal Chop. It was served with some yummy sounding sides, but the meat was the thing here. God lord, the chop was HUGE. I got a bite or two (had to wrestle them away, though), and the flesh was cooked to perfection and seasoned all the way through. If you eat here and you like veal, you should definitely order this dish.

I had the duck breast with Apician spices (cooked just so, and with an impressively crispy skin minus all the usual fat), and my mom went for the wood-grilled lobster served in the half-shell with a basil sauce. The basil and lobster was a weird, but wonderful, combination.

Dinner was enjoyed with a Gresy Barberesco, G. Belzano wine.

Dessert at Del Posto was a mixed affair. Everything was good, but really only a few of the desserts were true standouts.

A pineapple crostada with gelato was refreshing, a butterscotch semifredo rich, and a chocolate tasting of 4 solid chocolates was more interesting on the menu than on the plate. But, the Chocolate Tortino was goooood - layers of chocolate sponge cake and ricotta, all coated in a chocolate shell and served with Olive Oil gelato, it was delicious.

The price tag on this meal was high, but overall, I think it's worth the price. We'll try Babbo next, as it's supposed to have equally great food but slightly lower prices.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Restaurant Review: Pamplemousse

400 east Sahara avenue
Las Vegas
Nevada 89104

Old school Vegas charm paired with good food equals a unique dining experience. That's what I learned at Pamplemousse in Las Vegas. A waiter with more personality than you'll find just about anywhere added to the charm of this tiny, not so off the beaten path restaurant. My father who was in Las Vegas with me this week suggested it, as he had been there the year before with some relatives who live in the area. I absolutely love finding these types of places and without him we would have been at just another huge hotel restaurant with a big name and some celebrity chef.

We were seated in a side room that we were told was frequented by the rat pack, replete with striped curtains on the ceiling and outside, a bit of hastily strung-looking lights for ambiance along with what looked like a 3-tiered fountain built in to a wall that had long stopped running. I imagined the rat pack closing the striped curtains and smoking cigars and entertaining in this room many years ago. What an amazing quality of old Vegas this place has!

We were seated and greeted with a tremendous veggie basket and a long list of specials not on the menu, including frog legs, upon which we decided not to indulge. We chose lobster bisque and the special scallops for our appetizers. I’m told the bisque was the best part of the meal and a patron at the next table also agreed. As for my scallops, they were cooked properly but I prefer mine seared pretty well with a nice caramelized color to them. These were just barely seared.

We moved on to our main courses which consisted of lobster ravioli for me and the scallops as a main for my father. His scallops looked identical to my appetizer except just more of them. My ravioli had a very nice lobster cream sauce with it and was good but not life-changing by any means.

We both had also ordered the chocolate lava cakes for dessert which came with a homemade ice-cream on top along with a "dollop" of whipped cream. The dollop however was as big as the scoop of ice-cream and I think we can all agree that's not a bad thing.

Overall Pamplemousse was a terrific dining experience, mostly due to the d├ęcor and service, both incredible. The food was good, but nothing out of this world. I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in town just to experience the quaint charm and ambiance of old Las Vegas along with a good meal.