Date of Review: 9/34/13
Assaggini — [Essentially Italian for Amuse Bouche] A Pesto Sour Cream Crostini. Not bad, except it wasn’t sour cream. I heard it described for other tables as a Ricotta Cheese. So it was Ricotta not Sour Cream, which was not good. It was a little too sour.
“Spoons” Course – Not an official course, but perhaps the best thing I had all night. Described as each of the line chefs create a small dish on the fly. The first “spoon” was a baby octopus with grilled frissee. This was absolutely fabulous. Octopus is generally a bit rubbery/chewy. Not this one. It was the tenderest Octopus ever. EVER. Second, “crispy pancetta”, basically a candied pancetta with a spicy after taste. Absolutely remarkable. Not as good taste-wise as the octopus, but very impressive technique-wise. Third, a lobster mushroom risotto. Really well done, but not as tasty as the other two. Finally, a tomato soup with a parmesan Panini (i.e. grilled cheese). The tomato soup was good, it had an earthy quality that I couldn’t indentify. Maybe a beef broth. And yes the Parmesan grilled cheese was every bit as good as it sounds. [I had the 6 p.m. seating, there was a couple next to me, the husband celebrating a 35th birthday at the 7 p.m. seating. They also got the six-course tasting menu. Their “spoons” course was exactly the same as mine, except they didn’t get the parmesan Panini – this tells me that it wasn’t really “on the fly” so much as a course created by the line chefs. Also, there is no way they just had ultra tender octopus just sitting around waiting to be used.]
Pairing — A lemon, mint, soda (think 7-up) with bitter liquor cocktail. A very interesting drink. It definitely needed to be mixed up, each sip was different from the next. One sip was bitter, the next sweet, and the following minty.
Bread – Herb Foccacia and Parmesan Breadsticks. The “butter” was a salted parmesan lardo. Absolutely fantastic. [I got a refill, but never actually got to the second plate.]
1st Course – Venison Carpaccio. Really tender roast beef essentially. There was a Dijon mustard on one side of the plate that I missed (it was under some cauliflower) and really added to the dish. Though I do think they added some salt there. The result was a slightly unbalanced dish, with a salty mustard that was on one side of the plate.
Pairing – A light Italian Red from Northern Italy. Honestly, it was bland – no flavor profile whatsoever.
2nd Course – Seared Ahi Tuna with a squid ink aioli. After my first bite I thought, “gosh this is a little on the salty side.” My second bite didn’t change that opinion. The server came by asking how it was, so I said “A little salty. But I can’t decide if it is the tuna or the aioli.” While I was talking I got the after taste of the tuna. It was an extra dose of salt. I asked to try another bite, to make sure that I wasn’t imagining things. I wasn’t – there was even more salt in the next bite. When the waiter came back he asked if he should take it away. “Yes”. I actually sent something back (perhaps the third time in my life I have sent something back). They brought me another tuna. I think they overcompensated a bit with the seasoning, but it was definitely better, the previous dish was near inedible. [I felt better when I saw the couple next to me get their tuna that was several shades lighter than the first dish I was served.]
Pairing – A Sicilian Red. PR68. Named after the road the winery is on. The winemaker is a woman. I don’t know why that was relevant, but the sommelier said so. Ironically, it was the best pairing for the worst dish of the night. It really cut the salt. Had a blackberry taste to it. Best wine of the night.
3rd Course – Orecchiette or ear shaped pasta. The pasta was al dente. I like my pasta a little past al dente. Other than that, it was pasta. Not sure what else there is to say. I love pasta, but it can never really “wow” me.
Pairing – A Riesling. A good pairing. Nothing exciting with this wine, just a good solid slightly dry white wine.
Intermezzo – The fourth course was palate cleanser — a watermelon sorbetto. I’m not the biggest watermelon fan, but it was good. What really made the dish was the candied watermelon rind that was on top. Positively delightful. Definitely a good palate cleanser.
5th Course (Main) – Duck. Excellent duck. But the duck took a back seat to the side dish – a fried gorgonzola. Taking nothing away from the duck, all I wanted to eat was the gorgonzola.
Pairing – A Piedmont red wine. Good, but not as good as the Sicilian.
6th Course – A flourless choc—NO, I AM YOUR GOD AND YOU SHALL BRING ME A CHEESE PLATE [Or perhaps more plausibly I politely asked if it was maybe possible if there was any way that they could bring me a cheese plate instead of the desert (or dolce) course.] Honestly don’t remember the cheeses – A buffalo ricotto (not nearly as sour as the earlier ricotta), that wasn’t great. Two other cheese that were very good, but I was so stuffed at that point I don’t think I truly enjoyed it.
Pairing — I actually had a choice between a sweeter dessert wine and a drier wine. I opted for the sweeter wine since I demanded a cheese plate. The second best pairing of the night. A good sweet wine, but not a sickly, cloyingly sweet wine, which you sometimes get.
Overall, Luca D’Italia had higher highs and lower lows than Fruition or Mizuna. The lows: a slight misstep with the tuna course and the amuse bouche wasn’t great. The highs: The baby octopus. Without a doubt the best octopus I’ve ever had, not close. Nothing even would be 2nd or 3rd best octopus compared to this. The Duck/gorgonzola was also excellent.
Gayot Rating: 15/20