Torrisi Italian Specialties

Rating:

After weeks and months of pining to dine at this establishment, the time finally came.  At 5:10, I thought I was way too early for a restaurant that only begins taking reservations at 5:30 and doesn’t actually start serving until 6:00; however, I was surprised to find that I was the 10th or 11th person standing in line already.  I see this as a good sign.  So, we waited, put in our name, meandered for 25 minutes or so, and returned.  This is an ideal place to go after work, especially after reading the recent New York Times article decision fatigue, because you only really have one choice to make.  Tonight, it was lamb or fish?  The rest is a set menu that changes on a nightly basis.

To begin, we were offered 4 appetizers:  Warm Mozz, DaVero, Milk Thistle Cream; Brighton Beets, Dill Pollen;Roasted Cauliflower, Dried Scallop Vinaigrette; and Tripe, Currants, Fermented Jingle Bell Peppers.  The mozzarella was incredible, and again, it could just be my love for cheeses, but I could have consumed a tub of the mozzarella with the garlic bread as an entire meal.  The flavors were strong and perfectly melted in my mouth with the soft cheese.  This was a rare situation where I actually wish I had more bread before the main course, because it just matched the mozzarella so well.  The beets and cauliflower dishes were as anticipated, great in comparison to other restaurants, but not for the standards already set by the mozzarella appetizer.  The tripe actually intrigued me deeply; I had never before tasted tripe prepared in a western style.  I was a big fan of it, although it could be attributed partly to the currants as well.  I was slightly befuddled though by the different consistency of this tripe from the kinds I generally had in Chinese cooking.  I was informed that this was a different part/type of tripe.  Clearly, there is more food for me to try in the world.

Our first course was Gemelli, Dirty Duck Ragu.  I appreciated the taste of the dish and the duck, as it was unlike other duck that I had in the past, but I am not a big fan of gemelli in general.  I often complain of other thick, chewy, doughy tasting dishes in the same manner.  I think this dish could have had a lot more potential if it was paired with another type of pasta.  It would at least be more suitable for my personal tastes.  Our gemelli wasn’t even twisted in the shape of pretty unicorn horn.  Maybe that would be demanding too much.

For our main course, we had the two options which were Striped Bass, Pickled Green Tomato or BBQ Lamb, Molasses Vinaigrette, and because we work so well in tandem, we each opted for one of the choices.  I took the bass while she indulged in the lamb.  These were both fairly unimpressive for what I had expected, and at this point, I only have a vague impression of both being more sour than I expected or liked.  This is unusual too because I am often ecstatic about very sour dishes.  Perhaps, I was still reminiscing over the mozzarella I had first.

The finale of our meal were the House Pastries.  This consisted of 5 little treats:  a green-colored pastry with a sunflower seed on top; a custard with cayenne pepper and sea salt; celery sugar cookies; tri-color almond cake; and ricotta cheese filled cannoli.  As we ate around the treats we often exchanged looks of surprise and apprehensiveness.  Some were quite unique, and some were not as delicious as I expected, but all were worth a try.  My personal ranking would be:  1. custard; 2. cannoli; 3. sugar cookie; 4. almond cake; 5. green-colored pastry.

Despite everyone’s ravings, I didn’t enjoy this meal as much as I expected.  Perhaps my expectations had already been built too high.  However, despite my complaints, even the dishes that I was “not a big fan of” or considered “unimpressive” were still very good on the entire spectrum of possibilities.  They were merely less impressive than some of the best dishes I’ve ever had.  Nevertheless, I really do think I would’ve been happier with a giant tub of the mozzarella and a large roll of the Italian garlic bread.

Manzo

Rating:

For dinner today, we ventured to the grocery restaurant amalgamation of Eataly.  Upon random selection between all the restaurants in Eataly, we ended up going to the formal dining establishment here, Manzo.  It was indeed classy looking from the atmosphere.  In a bright and lively area, they had hollowed out a small corner and dimmed the lights to produce the standard fancy restaurant feel.  The menu also reflected its class as I opened to a first page which presented me with an intriguing seven course summer tasting menu option for $90 per person.  I guess it’s fortunate that I didn’t get it though, since seven courses does seem like a significant amount of food, probably more than I should eat at this point.  It’s probably even more fortunate that I didn’t get the tasting menu with the wine pairing too which would’ve cost $60 more on top of the original cost.

Instead we opted  to start off with some authentic Mozzarella.  Simple and delicious, dipped in oil, with nuts and crispy bacon on top, as well as two small pieces of garlic bread on the side.  It was delicious, but why were there three pieces of mozzarella but only two pieces of bread?!?  Why??  No matter, I love cheese and will eat pounds of it at a time without any kind of bread, cracker, or wine.

For the main course, I selected Raven & Boar Whey Fed Pig which was made into some sausage form this evening.  I guess I’m not enough of a pork connoisseur because I can’t really describe the depth and details of what I enjoyed.  The fat was juicy, and the sausage was salty with a bit of spice flavor.  My stomach is smarter than I am though, because it gets upset by low grade meats and on this night, it had no reason to revolt.  The pork was served in a shallow plate of oil and vinaigrette which worked out very well.   The potato and arugula were adequately flavored by it the sauce.  With the meat, the sauce mix was just subtle enough that I could taste a hint of it without it overpowering the flavor of the meat.

I was then given the opportunity to finish a plate of the Fettuccine.  Egg, black pepper, and asparagus were all that were in this!?  The few morsels of it that I sampled were amazing, though quite oily.  Regardless… next time, I will probably go with pasta in Eataly.  I had heard much more rave reviews about the pasta and fish than the red meats.  This small sample of the pasta proved that, at least in terms of my taste buds, I would prefer the pasta here.  But Manzo was supposed to be more known for its red meats, so I couldn’t deny trying it.  No dessert on this night, just a simple stroll past the chocolate and pastry sections was enough for us.

Giorgio’s of Gramercy

Rating:

I absolutely could not wait for lunch today, not because I had planned to go to Giorgio’s of Gramercy, but merely because the air conditioning in my office was broken and all of the employees were slowly roasting.  Lunch offered us an escape from the oven, at least for a short hour.  I decided to stop in at Giorgio’s as another stop on the restaurant week tour.  Nothing on the menu seemed exceptional, but I was ready to try 3 of the items to see how they were.  Fortunately for me, I inquired as to the Soup du Jour, which uninterestingly enough was Chicken Barley I believe; however, the server also eagerly announced the other specials for the day to me.  One dish did happen to pique my interest, and so I was swayed away from the prix fixe menu.

Among the numerous daily specials I chose the Garden Vegetable Ravioli with Grilled Shrimp, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomatoes in a Lemon Garlic Sauce.  As I awaited my scrumptious sounding choice, I embellished in some of the complimentary bed typical to most restaurants.  Giorgio’s was not off to a good start…  It undoubtedly was day old cheap bread from the deli around the corner, and I could barely bring myself to finish even a piece.  At this point, I feared for the worst, but I consoled myself with the fact that I had dined at other fine restaurants with subpar bread.

This only made me more eager to see what kind of special would be presented to me.  As the second person to arrive in the restaurant for lunch, my dish came fairly swiftly, and from its outward appearance, looked to satisfy me completely.  Even my server, who seemingly had not seen this order before, whispered to me, “I’m having that for lunch today.”  Indeed, this reaffirmed that the look of it was most appealing.  As for the taste, it was as good as it looked.  At first the asparagus and cherry tomatoes tasted a bit out of place, but I soon realized that I had to adequately soak each piece in the juices enveloping the ravioli and shrimp.  The shrimp itself was delicious and grilled to perfection, I was most disappointed that I could not get all of the meat out of the tails and had to sacrifice some of the deliciousness.  The ravioli was exceptional as well.  I’m not quite sure what exactly was in it except for remnants of diced mushrooms, but it certainly did not disappoint.  Whatever the chef did, it was amazing.  I remember thinking to myself as I ate, that if any parent should have trouble motivating their children to eat vegetables, they should have them indulge in this ravioli.  I can only hope that they will make this special more frequently in the future since I feel it is amazing enough to be one of their staple dishes.

Since the entree was so surprisingly delicious, I decided to indulge in a dessert as well.  The server recommended their famous S’mores Bread Pudding.  I had just had an amazing s’mores dessert the other night at Telepan, so this was good opportunity to see how it would measure up.  As the first bite entered my mouth, I knew that it was not the same caliber as the s’mores I had before.  This was strangely enough, a case where the brownie was too moist, and I suppose, certainly very pudding like, too much so for my taste.  The vanilla gelato on top was nothing exceptional, and there was no form of mashmallow or whipped cream, which I usually feel is necessary (unless your brownie and gelato/ice cream are amazing).  The graham cracker was just a sad sad piece of out-of-the-box Honey Maid laying next to the creation, and the caramel sauce contributed next to nothing.  It was covered with crunchy chocolate wafer balls and a nice piece of dark chocolate; their purpose I assume was to distract from the fact that the top layer of the brownie did not offer the usual kind of slightly hard texture, an attribute I quite like.

All in all, it was still amazing meal.  The entree was something superb, and I feel fortunate to have stopped in today while they were serving it.  The dessert was good as well, merely not as good as I had hoped.  Perhaps I did not get as much food in terms of quantity as if I had ordered the prix fixe, but I was certainly very pleased with my entree choice.  There will be no regret today for straying from the original lunch plan.

Maialino

Rating:

So the upcoming two weeks is restaurant week in New York City.  What that really means is a lot of 3-course lunches at fancy places for $24.07 and 4-course dinners at upscale establishments for $35.00 (not including tax and tip of course).  I intend to take advantage though of these two weeks.  This is my opportunity to visit all those places that have $$$ and $$$$ ratings on Yelp.com at a reasonable price.

My eating journey begins at a fine restaurant around the corner from my current office.  Located in the Gramercy Park Hotel is the delightful Italian restaurant, Maialino.  Restaurant week is a blessing, as I was able to enjoy a 3-course lunch that would’ve originally netted me over $30, not including the dessert it came with.

For an appetizer, I began with the Carciofini Fritti (Fried Artichokes & Anchovy Bread Sauce).  It was simply amazing; it reminded me why I loved artichokes, from the fried outer layers to the warm inside and it was scrumptious both with and without the anchovy dip.  I thought usage of the dip was much more dependent on your opinion of anchovies.  Fortunately for me, I like them, and it simply seemed to amplify the flavor since anchovies generally taste like a combination of light fishiness and salt flavor to me.

The main entree was a smaller portion of a dish that Maialino typically only serves for dinner, which was the Pollo alla Diavola (Peppered Chicken & Pickled Chili).  Definitely another win.  It was such a simple dish with just a small slab of chicken and an average sized portion of arugula.  But somehow, their combination of sauces and chili and flavor just combined so well in every possible way.  The chicken was flavorful, the skin was delicious, the meat was perfect moistness, and the sauce was a tad sweet with medium spice; it was just enough that you could taste all the flavors working together, and none overpowered the others.  The arugula was simply served on the same plate, and had no dressing except the same juice/sauce that enveloped the delicious chicken.  It was not oily or greasy feeling, but enough to give it a solid chicken “feel,” making even the simple serving arugula so enjoyable as well.  I finished every little piece of chicken I could get off the bone, and every little leaf of arugula that was presented on my plate.

The finale was a dessert that I have not seen on any of their normal menus, the Crostata di Mirtillo (Blueberry Tart & Fior di Latte Gelato).  A great way to end a thoroughly enjoyable meal.  I love blueberries, and I don’t know the specific ingredients for their tart, but it was a pleasure to know that it was not the typical canned blueberries that are dowsed in sugar and high fructose corn syrup (but they still might be canned blueberries, just higher quality ones).  But it was cripsy, and sweet, and delicious with the gelato that came on top.  A great finish to a great meal.

I really hope I can afford to return here in the future.  I truly believe my love would enjoy the chicken here, and I’m eager to sample the roasted pig that is so highly recommended.  Perhaps it will just have to wait, but hopefully not too long since I know the quality of a restaurant can vary greatly over short periods of time.  At least for today, I will tip my hat to Maialino and their 3-course restaurant week 2011 lunch; it so completely satisfied my need for something that was quality and delicious.