Thursday, February 2, 2012

Trufflepalooza at Locanda Verde


I like Locanda Verde.  I like truffles.  I like wine.  I saw no reason why I wouldn’t like all of these things together.  Though the reservation line opened and closed before I was able to secure my spot for the third annual Trufflepalooza, I jumped at Urban Daddy’s offer of a multi-course, wine-paired meal bedecked with truffles in the cozy back room of the TriBeCa restaurant.  Sure, it was pricier than the initial restaurant offer, but it included wine pairings (which proved to be generously poured), a couple of additional bites, and tax and tip, which meant that, come Monday, we were completely settled-up. 

The last time Rob and I were at Locanda Verde with his family, we sat next to a table of Kardashians (Khloe, Lamar, Kris and Kourtney, the douchey-looking guy and their kid).  This time, though, we came for truffles.  The event was held in the private room in the rear of the restaurant.  Upon checking in, we were greeted with a glass of prosecco (Aneri Prosecco Brut).  I always enjoy a glass of bubbly, so not a bad start at all.  Place cards dictated seating, and Rob and I nestled in to our (tight) seats in the center of one of the two long communal tables that had been set up back-to-back.   All of the food (save the burrata) was served family-style on large platters, so making friends with those across from us was inevitable. 

After our prosecco (the only glass of the night I was able to successfully polish off, despite leaving rather tipsy), we were given a hearty pour of Inama Soave Classico 2009, a full, round white that stood up well to the truffle flavor dotting our first courses. (The restaurant was supremely dark, so please bear with my Camera+'ed iPhone photos.  Danke.)

 The bread course was not immune to the truffle treatment; the black truffle focaccia was light and airy and eminently fluffy, though my piece tasted more of cheese than of truffle.  Not a bad thing, of course, but not precisely as advertised.

Plates of beef tartare descended upon the table next.  Portioned atop well-oiled crostini and crowned with a wisp of black truffle, the beef lacked zing.  It tasted merely of cold and fat, and could have used a bit more time with the salt shaker.  The truffle, though optically present, didn’t stand up to the taste of the meat, which overpowered. 

Perhaps my favorite course of the evening was the burrata, though this might not be a fair contest given my deep-rooted affection for the cheese.  It was everything burrata should be, creamy, salty, ooey, gooey.  It played wonderfully with the roasted butternut squash and melted leeks.  The truffles were perfect here – the funky earthiness a welcome complement to the salty cheese and the sweet roasted veggies.  Pumpkin seeds for crunch and a light coat of dressing helped knock this dish out of the park. 

Once the last licks of burrata were cleared from the table, the red wine portion of the evening commenced with a hefty glass of Renato Ratti Nebbiolo d’Alba 2009, my favorite wine of the evening.  Of the three glasses in front of me by the end of the night, this was the wine I kept coming back to, pairings be damned. 

Buckwheat ravioli was up next, stuffed with truffled ricotta and topped with a blanket of trumpet mushrooms, cabbage and black truffle shavings.  This dish was another hit at the table, the pasta was toothsome and nutty, and despite being obviously bathed in butter, felt almost wholesome.  The truffle came through very subtly in this dish, not taking over, but merely accenting the other ingredients.  Not a raviolo remained when the plates were cleared. 

The meat portion of the meal was paired with a big red, Grifalco della Lucania Aglianico del Vulture 2008.  The chicken came portioned into quarters, flanked on all sides by chestnut chicken sausage, Brussels sprouts and apples, all atop a bed of lovely black beluga lentils (one of my favorite types).  The lentils were awesome, the Brussels sprouts great, the chicken – oh the chicken – so flavorful, so well-seasoned, so…dry.  The sausage was pretty good, certainly juicy with a nice snappy casing.  But the chicken merely served to uphold my belief that one should not order chicken in a restaurant; sure it was tasty and well-seasoned, but ultimately, it’s just chicken. 

I’ve been to Locanda Verde multiple times before, always drawn back by the sheep’s milk ricotta and, as out of character as it may be, the desserts.  Karen DeMasco does supremely ridiculous things at the restaurant - by day with the pastry bar up front, by night with desserts.  Never has a dessert failed to satisfy there – and it’s the rare case when it fails to go above and beyond mere satisfaction.  Monday night’s dessert was no different.  It was, in a word, incredible.  It was the one course that sent murmurs up and down the tables, that had strangers locking eyes in mutual, contented surprise.   Her carrot black truffle cake came to the table looking rather ordinary, aside from the pile of black truffles atop it, of course.   It was far from ordinary, though – a crunchy, chewy crust gave way to a moist, dense, almost gritty crumb that I imagine was the product of cornmeal in the batter.  The white chocolate mascarpone crema was delicious as well, thick and rich and far from sweet.  The whole dessert had a very savory quality, and I kept digging my fork in well past my declaration to Rob that I was about to burst.  It was, in a word, awesome. 

Though there were high and low points of the meal, we enjoyed a lot of good food, which I’ve come to expect from Locanda Verde and a lot of good wine.  Not a bad Monday night at all.  

377 Greenwich St (at N. Moore St.)
(212) 925-3797

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