Friday, January 16, 2009

del posto, nyc, jan. 9

here is what i loved about del posto: we got six amuse bouche (amuse bouches? amuses bouche? i don't know). anyway, that is not a record. we got seven at spago, and somewhere between five or six at tru.

here is the difference: at del post
o, the six amuses came before the menu did.

that is dedication to the cause of making me happy.

we decided to take the trip to nyc on little more than the fact that while we were in texas, mario said "come on up." so we made his high-end joint next to the food network studios in the meatpacking district our first dinner. we went to babbo last may and LOVED it, so much that my initial inclination was to go back there again. but i told darcie that we would go where ever she thought we should, and she said del posto.

first of all, TONS of room, unlike most nyc places, where you are shoe-horned in. crazy expansive. there are dining areas on the entry level, and in the loft above, and appeared maybe in the area below.

we got there a little early and waited for our table at the bar. even the bar snacks were good. we got a tray with house-made corn nuts (which we would see again soon), garlic potato chips and poofy cheeto-like things that were bbq flavored. sounds low key, but it was all really good.

then we get to our table, in the loft area, and almost as soon as we sit down, we get a platter of three amuses. first was a barley soup with chocolate, a butternut squash ball crusted in corn
nuts and a mini grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto and provolone. while we were figuring out where to start, someone else brought us three more: a chicken sandwich, a ball of crisped rice with robiola cheese, and fresh mozzarella with espresso powder.

disclaimer: all of these things came out with intensely italian names which i had no hope of remembering. so, for instance, you are hearing about the "butternut squash ball with corn nuts" instead of the elegant-sounding thing it was really called. we all have to live within my limitations.

the shot of soup was tasty. barley flavor but smooth and no grain texture. the chocolate was on top and hit as an aftertaste. very nice.

the butternut ball was a tiny truffle of squash puree coated with crush corn nut-like crunchy goodness. more please.

on the rice ball, i just heard rice and robiola, so i was expecting rice texture. got rice krispie texture. very fun. the cheese was gooey good.

both sandwiches were tiny bites. imagine your normal-sized sandwich: that would serve 30 at this size. i missed the description of the chicken, but it seemed like a chicken salad. the prosciutto and provolone was a nice burst of flavor.

we had the mozzarella last. i liked it. pam wasn't sold on the espresso powder. i thought it was neat and unexpected.

now that we had that out of the way, we got menus.

the way to go here is the "del posto menu," which gives each person the choice of an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, plus you can pick two pasta courses that everyone at the table gets. and for an extra $6 each, you can go three pasta courses.

yes, we did three.

so we placed our orders and were brought a basket of bread. i have since learned that the bread basket at del posto is on time out new york's list of 100 things you must eat in the city, and i'm almost positive it is not because of the bread. the bread itself was fine. in fact, there was a
multigrain roll in there that was really, really good. but the thing that put the bread over the top was that it came with butter AND lardo. there is an innate mental glitch that tells you to NOT spread pork fat on your bread, that it can't possibly be right. but then you do it. and then you do it again. and then you forget there is butter. wow. all things in moderation, right?

so, after all this, we started getting food that we actually ordered.

for our appetizers, pam got the sunchoke crudo with truffled fonduta and walnut gremolata. it was basically a salad of thinly shaved sunchokes and black truffle with a walnut dressing. it was really good and looked really cool, with mini shavings of food all piled and folded upon itself.

i got the lobster salad fra diavola with grilled onions and rosemary. a big bowl with a couple of beautifully arranged pieces of claw and tail meat in the bottom, dressed
with a spicy sauce and red onion. the web site says they were grilled, but i think they might have been pickled here. and the rosemary was big, fresh leaves, and very subtle. the side of the bowl was painted with a spice mix that added salt and a sort of old bay mix of spices.

next we got a succession of three pasta plates. the first was awesome, and they each got better from there.

first was the del posto agnolotti dal plin with parmigiano-reggiano and prosciutto di parma. agnolotti are fat, tiny ravioli-like dumplings. i think our server told us there were like five meats in them, but i had guessed prosciutto, and looking at the menu online, it says just prosciutto. so, not sure, but awesome. the pasta itself was so tender that it just made me wonder why all pasta isn't that good.

next was the potato gnocchi with pork shoulder and pin
e croccante. i have standards for gnocchi, and they are almost never met. i either want them light as air, or practically leaden. i like them both ways. what i don't like is the chewy, gummy crap you get almost anywhere gnocchi are served. these were of the light as air variety, and possibly the best gnocchi i ever had at a restaurant. there were pieces of pork shoulder in among, and a pine nut paste to the side of the dish.

the last pasta was the garganelli verdi al rag├╣ bolognese. the garganelli verdi wasn't just colored with spinach, it tasted like spinach, and the spinach did not remotely detr
act from the pasta texture, which can happen. it was sauced perfectly with the bolognese.

next for the entrees.

pam got the grilled pork chop. it was described as being an "ode to emilia-romagna." it came with winter citrus (grapefruit) and winter savory. the chop was cut off the bone, but the bone was served on the plate, wrapped in prosciutto. and there were mini crispy bits of cheese on the plate. they seemed like frico to me. when the plate was placed in front of pam, the waiter began drizzling 25-year-old balsamic over the plate. she liked the dish a lot. but the funny thing was that after she looked at the picture she took, she said she wished she had known how good it looked when she was eating it.

i had the sliced duck alla scappi -- i had duck. you are STUNNED. it came with sweet pumpkin polenta (tho not much, and it was very soft. i almost missed it. it was practically a sauce) and trevisano and campari. tasted great, and also looked awesome in the picture.

for dessert, pam got the coconut panna cotta with candied ginger and pineapple. i didn't try it, and she didn't say much about it. so not sure. she liked the papery flower thing on top, but couldn't tell what it was.

i had the butterscotch semifreddo with milk jam and grapefruit. "milk jam" is a thick caramel sauce, it turns out. the caramel was rich and the butterscotch was sort of subtle. but all together, good. the grapefruit was a decent bitter counter to the sweets, but there was a lot of it. a little would've been enough.

they also brought us each a glass of moscato d'asti. ever since we went to babbo, i have been on a visionquest to find one of the dessert wines we had. as best i can tell, it only existed that night. now i can hunt down this wine. it was spectacular

we were also brought a basket of hot donut holes -- there was definitely a fancy italian name for them that i am forgetting, but they were donut holes -- filled with orange cream. i liked my dessert, but i think i liked the donut holes more.

at that point, we were full. it was over.

and then the cookies came out.

the initial thinking was, not happening. no way can we eat more. and there were SIX of them. no way. not happening.

but they were so little!

so, we devoured. in no particular order, there was a balsamic brownie, a white chocolate and hazelnut ball, a shortbread, two gels (raspberry-ginger and apricot), a biscotti. and ... and ... one other thing. i forget, but i think it was an almond-y pastry thing. THEN we were done.

we didn't see mario, and it was kind of funny, because we were seated such that my back was to the area that the food was coming from, and a couple of times the people at the next table reacted to something happening behind me, and i kept thinking that it was mario carrying a platter of food to us. it wasn't. but that's ok.

comparing del posto and babbo is a little odd. i loved the food at both, but gun-to-head, i think the food at del posto was a little better. but if i was just going back to whichever, i think i would pick babbo because it was a lot of fun. its not like there is a bad choice to be had, tho.

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