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.

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Cafe Habana

Rating:

My friends had just come into New York from China, and after two days of 12 hour shopping, I met them at this popular little corner store down in NoLIta.  It was recommended to them by the shoppers and employees at a nearby Tory Burch store, and it looked quite promising with people lined up around the corner just waiting to get in.  We became increasingly eager to go inside.  This was a combination of the fact that it was beginning to rain harder and harder and that the two shoppers had merely eaten one hot dog so far today; that is, one hot dog between the two of them.

We eventually took over the corner of the bar, and sat down for some frozen margaritas and food.  The margaritas were not universally loved, in fact they weren’t really loved at all, but I suppose they weren’t the reason we were here anyways.  Our purpose for being here was some good Cuban food, and in pursuit of that, we started the meal off with two orders of the Grilled Corn Mexican Style.  Fantastic fantastic.  I’d never had corn of this style in the past.  I love cheese, and it was covered in it.  I love spice, and it was sprinkled with it.  The flavors blended together harmoniously in joyous revelry.  If I ever return, I will undoubtedly get this appetizer again.

For the main course, I ordered myself Camarones Al Ajillo, which is apparently shrimp in spicy garlic sauce with rice and beans.  I only chose this dish because I saw that the customer who was sitting at the bar before me ordered it, and he seemed like a frequent customer who knew what was good so I followed in his tracks.  I think I made the right decision.  The rice and beans were good, but the shrimp and the sauce they put it in really blew me away.  The rice and beans served its purpose of not overwhelming the senses, and was like an anchor to keeping my senses steady.  Perhaps it was the contrast that made the shrimp taste even better?  It’s quite possible, and I was very pleased with this dish.

My friends unfortunately came in and ordered some of the most American dishes possible, which denied me the possibility of sampling more Cuban cuisine. One went with the Grilled Steak & Corn Salad; the other got a Bacon Cheeseburger.  They both ordered their meat medium-well.  Maybe I don’t like my meat that well done, or maybe the restaurant just wasn’t so great at making these everyday dishes.  Either way, I was pretty unimpressed by it.  The salad underneath the steak was fairly palatable.  However, I was told it was far too filling, and this again reminded of the shear portion size in a typical US restaurant.

I an most assuredly very content with my order here as well as the appetizer.  I am willing to wager that if my friends had ordered better, I would’ve thought even more highly of this little joint.  Unfortunately, their meals were very unspectacular in my eyes.  But, I look forward to bringing others here to at least enjoy the Mexican style corn in the future.