Dear Food Diary:
Last week, I was invited by Montenapo to attend a tasting of their current menu with a guest. It was hard picking a plus one, so I did a drawing amongst friends and my college pal Jia (a total food lover like me) won.
There we were, not knowing what to expect, but excited and delighted as we walked into an airy, beautifully lit, high ceiling dining room, with the New York Time’s Building’s Tree Garden
as backdrop. A nice retreat from the ever so busy Times Square area.
Per our waiters suggestion I started the night with a nice white, a Falanghina, Terredora (Campania), very floral and light. Jia had the Montepulciano, D’Abruzzo, Fanerse Red, another great choice for red.
Crunchy herb bread sticks, and sun dried tomato hummus, both very good and a nice beginning of what was to come. Let the feast begin…
PER INIZIARE, for our starters we had the Tartare and Cappesante.
Yellowfin Tuna Tartare had a fresh citrus dressing, sweet grapefruit slices, topped with wild arugula, capers and onions, sitting on a generous amount of guacamole. I loved the addition of quail egg and paper thin slices of celery popping up randomly bite after bite. It’s very creamy and well seasoned. Portion is good enough for sharing.
Cappesante, the jumbo scallops was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The scallops are seared to perfection, with a mild and creamy sunchoke puree, an umami filled veal reduction that brought out the sweetness of the scallops, and topped with crunchy pieces for texture. Fresh black truffles lingered fragrantly on my palate even after I cleaned the plate.
DALLA TRADIZIONE & AL NUOVO, pastas made on premises.
I love how the table can do a sampling of 3 pasta dishes. (Don’t know anywhere else that does this, I’ve only done 1/2 portions). This was great, specially for someone who just can’t make up their mind, like me.
Spaghetti with Sea Urchin. You know how I love Uni, so this was a no brainer. Basta Pasta has my favorite Uni Linguini dish, the only difference, theirs is mixed into a pink sauce, while this is topped with Sea Urchin pieces. I loved the simplicity of the dish, the pleasure of being able to taste each component, yet also its harmony as a whole. Sweet and creamy uni plays with your tongue along side the al dente spaghetti. Lightly seasoned with garlic, spicy pepper, olive oil and a sprinkle of salty cured mullet bottarga (which is a salted and pressed mullet fish roe). I want to have this again and again.
Agnolotti, ravioli pasta filled with braised veal cheeks. Again the pasta is al dente and the veal stock reduction is packed with flavor. I’ve had a similar dish at Babbo, this comes pretty close and I enjoyed it, though a bit on the salty side, it was still tasty.
Tagliatelle, wasn’t as al dente as the other two, but I liked how it mixed into the lobster bisque so well, this was saucier than the rest and the chodini mushrooms were a surprise and treat in every fork-ful. The dry vermouth added a nice touch in the background. It’s topped with lobster pieces, tomato, and chervil (sort of like parsley). My main complaint was the amount of lobster pieces, I had one to be exact, and since the lobster bisque had so much flavor, I found myself wanting more lobster chunks, preferably one in each bite.
PIATTI PRINCIPALI, main dishes of our meal
Salmone was highly recommended by the manager Jozef and our waiter. Wild salmon, with a caper crust. The fish so tender, it melted in my mouth and the crust added a little crunch. I liked the root vegetables and asparagus in olive oil and a dab of the sun dried tomato puree, for a little tang. I usually like my salmon raw, afraid of it being overcooked, but this was a good reminder that when cooked right, this omega-3 packed fish is the best choice, specially wild. Another interesting component of this dish was the caper from Italy, yes that big olive looking fruit/berry is actually a giant caper, surprisingly mild and less tart than the mini ones.
Ossobuco, a slow braised veal shank, combined with rosemary, lemon zest and garlic gremolata. There was no need for a knife here, just tender fall of the bone pieces of flavorful red meat. We were very full at this point, but I still managed to fully enjoy the dish. The saffron risotto was a bit undercooked, but it wasn’t the star of the dish, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Can you believe this was only 1/2 the portion? For you big eaters, this is the dish to go with.
The best part of the ossobuco, ohhhhh yes! the bone marrow!!! soooo good. Flavored from the essence of the veal. Fatty, creamy, buttery, melt in your mouth goodness. It’s a shame some folks don’t eat it, what a waste.
As we were debating about dessert (stuffed in a good way after the ossobuco), Chef German Lucarelli came by to say “hola”. Turns out, he’s from Argentina too! trained in Italian cooking, and travel/cooked all around. Back in Buenos Aires, he actually lived around Universidad de Belgrano, my school. It was great to chat about familiar things, and hear Argentinean spanish again, it made me feel at home. He convinced us to try a couple desserts, which wasn’t too hard.
Giorno e Notte, or day and night, is one of their signature desserts. Black and white chocolate mousse, topped with an anti-oxidant supper power acai berry infusion. It was lighter than we thought, and the berries gave it a nice tartness. Well balanced and great with a cup of cappuccino.
Flan de Dulce de Leche was the best way to end my meal. I thought it was going to be a regular flan topped with a spoonful of dulce de leche (an Argentinean caramel, super milky and creamy, stuff I grew up on), but to my surprise, it was all blended together into a insanely satisfying flan. The milky flavors and sweetness brought me back to the streets of Buenos Aires, wondering around the Tango filled air and holding my squared cup of thick and creamy flan on a sunny afternoon. This is the stuff my childhood was made of. Instantly brought a smile to my face, while I sipped on hot chamomile tea.
The manager, Jozef and our waiter were super attentive and friendly. Service was superb. Classy but not at all stuffy. It’s a great place for a pre-theater dinner, a nice date, or business lunches/dinners. They have pre-fixes all day long and free hors d’eouvres during happy hour. Prices are reasonable since portions are big enough to share. If you don’t have plans for New Year’s Eve dinner, they have a fiesta and menu.
I would go back again for the scallops, uni spaghetti, ossobuco and flan.
P.S. Chubby’s RATING: 3/4
250 West 41st Street (between 7th and 8th)