Saturday, January 06, 2007

Del Posto: Decadence With A Price

But With Mario... It's Still All About the Pasta

Happy New Year.

It took quite a while (months) for me to get to Del Posto… a restaurant opening I have been eagerly anticipating. Their pre-opening drama is now famous in the restaurant world, but little did I care if the fare was to live up to its promise.

My first visit happened on a special night… New Year’s Eve. Del Posto was offering a special white truffle tasting menu that evening, but I opted for the ala carte experience, as I wanted to taste the flavors that had been flowing out of the kitchen since opening.

Before I get started, let me make something clear.

This place ain’t cheap.

I’m cool with that, and I get fine dining… and sure, I dropped about $200 on a simple dinner for 2. But please note…. I could have easily dropped $400-600 on this night. So my message? Come to Del Posto with room on your Visa card… you’re gonna need it.

Upon entering the restaurant, one thing is clear. They spent an unreal amount of money on this build out. It is spectacular. A large room that doesn’t get too noisy. A refined elegance, without being too stuffy. A perfect bar. Large, looming balconies with tables of happy parties. And the most amazing thing?.... tables with a major amount of elbow room. To eavesdrop here, you’ll need skills.

Arriving a few minutes early, we sat at the bar and ordered cocktails. Ours were perfectly prepared in a beautiful manner, but it’s what the woman next to us ordered that blew us away…. A simple amaretto sour.
As we watched the bartender make this drink, complete with egg whites and 5 different ingredients, we were in awe. He mixed it like I have never seen a drink mixed, them drizzled sour cherry juice through the middle. The woman drank a sip and nearly passed out. “This is the best drink I have ever tasted,” she exclaimed. I believed every word of it.

At the table, the kitchen began by sending out the obligatory freebies that were welcomed with hungry stomachs. Tiny morsels of heaven… polenta, hams… you get the picture.

The menu is tough, as you veer to many options…. Antipastas that include roasted autumn vegetables, scallops with carpaccio, amazing salads and house-cured salami. Risotto with porcini or lobster. Pastas that included pumpkin stuffed ravioli (folded) and orecchiette with lamb, peas and chanterelles.

All that before you see the main courses… fish, turkey, pork, wild game… well, you get the picture.
If all of this is too much, you can always opt for the Del Posto tasting menu ($120) or the white truffle tasting menu ($295)…. But both looked to be an enormous amount of food… and we preferred to enjoy the night without feeling like we needed to rush home and go to sleep.

Our selections seemed perfect on that romantic evening. A beef carpaccio that may have been the best I’ve ever tasted and a plate of salami to get started.
We passed on the salads and moved straight to the pasta tasting, a selection on 3 pastas for our table.

Say what you will about the food at Del Posto, but in my humble opinion, the pasta is the star here.
The pumpkin stuffed ravioli, folded in delicate sheets of handmade pasta, and topped with brown butter and truffles was nearly an out of body experience. Next, the rabbit stuffed pasta with golden butter and leeks was damn near as good as the pumpkin. And last, we enjoyed a garganelli pasta with a simple Bolognese that seemed to round out all three tastes perfectly. The portions for this tasting are small, but at $27 a person, a good buy as you get to sample several dishes.

Starting to feel full, we split an entrée, the pork loin with grilled celery and artichoke. It was perfect for the two of us, and was wonderfully prepared.

Now feeling full, we were faced with the dilemma of a dessert menu that looked to good to be true. Baked meringues, chocolate-hazelnut mousse, almond cakes… all amazing. What we didn’t know was order or not, a cart of freshly made goodies would arrive at our table, and we would receive a plate full of sweets courtesy of the kitchen. The fennel and white chocolate bites on this plate were out of this world.

So, how do I sum this up?

It’s wonderful, expensive, decadent, interesting, sometimes annoying but delicious.

Unless you get really excited setting your money on fire, take this advice.

Enjoy Del Posto as you would Babbo or Lupa. Search for small bites. Craft special ala carte meals.

If you give in to the overwhelming urge to overindulge, you will leave upset and likely disappointed. It can be spectacular in its ability to deliver an over the top experience… but if you are gonna drop that kind of cash, I’ll like to recommend you make a reservation at Per Se.

Oh yea…get the pumpkin ravioli.