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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant review’

This week’s review is of A Voce Restaurant, on 41 Madison Avenue (they also have another location as well, at 10 Columbus Circle).  Elana and I are greeted and seated immediately, despite arriving about 20 minutes early for our reservation.  They are extremely welcoming.

The Scene –  The interior has a modern, trendy sharpness to it.  Abstract artistry, colored lights and contoured leather seating gives off a very Vegas like feel.  It’s a spacious, sprawling, single level space featuring angled furniture, walls and fixtures which perfectly mesh together like well working geometry experiment.

The Grub – A Voce starts us off with some fresh, Tuscan (no, or little, salt) style bread with a dipping dish of EVOO (that’s extra virgin olive oil).  Elana and I use this opportunity to scan the wide ranging menu.  We first split an order of the Cassoncini con Prosciutto Di Parma.  The Cossoncini is a fried dumpling stuffed with piping hot mozzarella cheese and, and this case, spinach.  The fry is nice and light and doesn’t distract from a wonderful, cream spinach like inside.  The accompanying cuts of Prosciutto are of high quality.  They are perfectly moist but not too fatty or salty.

We follow this up with two pasta dishes: (1) Agnolotti – sunchoke filled pasta with brown butter, walnuts and rosemary and (2) Quadratti – gorgonzola filled pasta with savoy cabbage and truffles.   Both pastas (which are of the ravioli/tortellini genre) are of excellent construction (look at the 4 sides of the “quad” ratti.  Brilliant!).  They are sturdy enough not to leak filling, yet rolled thin so to provide each bite with loads of flavor.  The former pasta is my top choice between the two.  It’s a perfect feature of sweet and salt.  The gorgonzola pasta is darn good, but there is an ever-so-slight let down: it had been covered in truffle shavings which, sadly, provided minimal (almost non existent, actually) truffle flavor.  Nonetheless, I’m able to quickly overlook this otherwise grave mistake due the excellent quality of pasta that sits in a lemony, buttery sauce which, according to Elana is more like “cabbagey, cheetoh madness.”  I’m sure this is exactly what they had in mind.

For our main dish, Elana and I split braised veal shank Ossobuco with bone marrow and leeks.  This dish is superb.  With a gentle pull, the veal effortlessly falls off the bone and rests in a pool of burgundy, lightly salted broth.  The meat is both fatty and tender, with taste levels that are simply through the roof.  But the real treat, is found inside the bone, which is jam packed with the buttery, fatty, boogery goodness that is bone marrow.  Upon Elana making this discovery, we both shove the butt-ends of our forks to force out this glorious goop, and spread the remains on the meat.  L-I-V-I-N.

For a side, we also order Cauliflower, which has been toasted in oil, a light vinegar, and sprinkled with sea salt.  It is perfectly crunchy and lightly burnt. As is custom, Elana and I top of off our meal with some of the best Espresso in recent memory – just an absolute kick ass ying yang of bitter and smooth.  It is served with a complimentary, lemony marshmallow treat (as seen below).

Throughout the meal, A Voce’s service is quite good.  While it’s not the absolute soup to nuts flawless presentation of, say, Del Posto, A Voce has the requisite features of a top flight restaurant: a knowledgeable staff, a sommelier on site (who was quite helpful), and well timed meal arrivals (minus one or two lulls in refilling our wine).

The Bathrooms:

The bathrooms are a scene of tidy luxury – marbled sinks, upper quality disposable hand towels, and a generous reflective surface to re-set the part in your dome should it become disturbed while digging up tough to reach portions of bone marrow.  It gives you pretty much everything you need.

The Experience:

Heat – The Near Edgy Masterpiece

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Each passing day on the ol’ blog is a learning experience.  Originally, Elana and I had intended to treat the blog as a smorgasbord for all things food related; reviewing restaurants, posting recipes, and starring in videos – with the only common denominators  being enthusiasm and honesty.  There was not necessarily a real theme or concentration as to what we would feature.  You were just to trust our homegrown taste buds on various food related topics.

Much to our surprise, a decent amount of people actually read this thing.  Well, thanks for peepin’ the posts, peeps (hehe).  And, in order to take this blog to the next level, we feel it is appropriate to narrow the focus a bit.  An Italian focus.  I mean, that is the type of food we were raised on, experiment with most frequently, and eat too much of.

So what does this mean?  Well, like many things we do here on the blog, the focus will be an experiment of indefinite duration and potential debate.  But generally it will mean this: most of the restaurants we will review will be Italian or Italian influenced.  Our recipes and videos, will predominantly forward Italian dishes and ideas.  In fact, even the blog, is going to be written in Italian.  Comprende, amigo?

But lovers of food we are above all.  So we will still make occasional room for posts that are outside the scope.  However, according to my father (“The Box”) all foods (and generally everything else) on this planet are a derivation of some sort of Italian influence.  So, technically, even if our posts do, in fact, stray from the Boot’s roots, perhaps we are not straying at all… naw mean?  No?  Care to debate the topic with this man?

We didn’t think so.

Elana here (that was John above, if you hadn’t guessed). In keeping with this new focus, we are starting off with a very basic, Italian 101 recipe: bruschetta. I’ve talked a lot about brushcettas, but I’ve never offered you the simplest, most basic and potentially most satisfying combination: Tomato and Basil Bruschetta. Here it is:

What You Need:

Tomatoes (4 nice plum ones, or a basket of the cherry variety)
Extra virgin olive oil (as much as you like, but you really only need a drizzle or three)
Sea salt (to taste)
Fresh basil (chopped)
Loaf of Italian bread cut into slices

What To Do:
First, fire up your broiler. Place your bread slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place the cookie sheet with bread in the broiler and toast for about 1-2 minutes on each side (don’t forget to flip!). Make sure you keep an eye on the toasting process, because that broiler heats things up mighty fast, and I have pulled too many charred bread remains from its fire-y depths because I can’t seem to remember that I put them in there in the first place. But you are waaaaaay smarter. Let’s hope.

Chop up your tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Drizzle with a healthy dollop of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt to taste, and decorate with chopped, fresh basil. It really must be fresh. I can’t stress that enough.

Once your toasts are toasted, line them up on a nice platter and using a spoon, heap generous amount of the tomato mixture on top of the toast. Serve immediately. Bene?

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Kudos to Dell’ Anima, the winner of our September Bathroom of the Month Award!

They scored some good bathroom points with the Xlerator hand dryer, the good smelling candle (even John thought it smelled nice in there), and that wicked cool mirror frame. Everything was on the up-and-up in there as far as our scout (John) could tell.

Just another reason to go back.

Membership in the Bathroom of the Month Club is closely monitored. Points are awarded for cleanliness most of all. Order and neatness also count. Extra bumps up the bathroom scale are given for Xlerator (or, my personal fav, Dyson) hand dryers. But if you have cool towels (like the kind you wash), that’s nice too. Little extras like nice smelling candles, interesting art and decor won’t hurt your chances either.

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This week’s review is of café la rustique, located at 611 Jersey Ave in downtown Jersey City, a pizza joint with other basic italian dishes to offer as well.  This is our first “Pizzeria” that will be reviewed, but definitely not our last.  A brief intro about Pizza:  myself and Elana are pretty knowledgeable about Pizza.  Granted, there are a couple of pies within reasonable geographical range that, admittedly, we have yet to try… but we’re pretty good on the subject.  We make it, we study it, take classes on it and  argue about it.  There are various types, shapes and tastes which are now classified as “pizza” but I, myself, like to generally break it down into three categories – (1) American Pizza (such as Di Fara) and (2) Naples-style brick oven pizza (such as Zero Otto Nove and Keste) (3) a Hybrid of the two (such as Grimaldi’s or Lucali).   Sure, there are other niche categories that exist – but these are the main categories.  I love all kinds, provided it is well made stuff, but have a soft spot for categories (2) and (3) – types of pizza usually crafted in a brick oven for that charred yet chewy crust.  This whole fascination with Pizza intensified two years ago, when I was fortunate enough to eat at one of the world’s oldest and best pizzerias – Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples.

Just look at this effing thing.  A charred, yet chewy circle of fine crafted slop.   Yes, slop.  That’s how they roll in Naples.  No neat and defined slices.  Just a piping hot, flattish charred bread bowl filled with the finest tomatoes and mozzarella. It was absolutely delicious.  Nonetheless, the bar was substantially raised (and has yet to be reached since then), but there are good nearby options.

It would be unfair to expect café la rustique to meet such lofty standards as those depicted above.  Rustique is an interesting place, and we were suspicious from the start.  We entered this non-air conditioned establishment on a warm autumn night.  There was literally only one other patron there while one woman seemed to make up the entire staff.  Not typically the greatest of signs.  There was an old television set sitting on top of the bar and jeopardy was on.  You may recall our boy Trebek appearing in a previous post.  I took this to mean something.

Right out of the gate, it earned a pizza demerit by offering the dreaded Buffalo Chicken Pizza as one of its offerings.  This is typically just a bad sign.  Pretty sure this is one of Dominos best sellers. I’m just not sure if I can take your pizza seriously but, alas, a glance into the back room revealed a brick oven…so there was hope.  Keep an open mind, I tell myself.

A bowl of bread was first served in a curious fashion.  Curious, because the butter that accompanied the bread was just sort of smeared on the inside of the bowl.  It just looked weird. For an appetizer, we ordered the Fresh Mozzarella Salad with tomatoes, roasted peppers and olives.  The mozzarella was very good, it was very fresh and not too salty.  Also, it was warm which led me to believe that it could be homemade.  If so, props. The tomatoes, however, were sort of tasteless and not so tender.  Roasted peppers were adequate.  I just could not get a feel for this place.

On to the pizza.  Elana selected their white pizza.  I, on the other hand, selected the Margherita pie.   I think it is important that when going to a Pizzeria, a plain or Margherita pie needs to be eaten, for two reasons.  First – the taste; fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on perfectly cooked bread is still an unbeatable combination.  Second – the Margherita tells the story of the pizzeria.  Essentially, it is the easiest way to differentiate between the qualities of various pizza.  I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking here. How was this particular pie?  It was not bad.  The ingredients, particularly the tomatoes, were good.  As with the appetizer, it had good full flavor without a salty aftertaste.  The mozzarella had been carefully cooked in the brick oven.  It was not overcooked and was just right.

The crust, on the other hand, was pretty bland.  It just did not mesh well with the pizza.  It was also a little overcooked and tough for a brick oven pie which, traditionally, should be charred, yet fluffy due to its intense heat.  This was an average pie.

The service was fine i guess… the woman casually breezed in and out of existence and did what she needed to d0.  The atmosphere, as noted, was lacking.  Combined with being empty and hot, the door was left open for interesting stragglers to float in and out; some of which were mosquitos.  Mosquito count – Elana 3.  Me – 1.  I had been bit squarely in the center of my forehead.  This was no way to eat.

The bathroom, as Elana put it, was sort of like a supply closet and had the smallest sink imaginable.

If I end up living in the downtown jersey city area, I could see myself going back for a pie every now and then.  It is indeed located in a cool spot in town, and the pizza is decent.  But i can’t say I will go out of my way to go back.

Overall Experience – Vanilla Sky

Afterwards, however, I did have my first 3D HDTV experience at best buy.  Pretty damn sweet, minus the uncomfortable glasses.

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