Archive for March, 2008

Centro Vinoteca: Burrell Steps Out of Batali’s Shadow and Into His Old Neighborhood.

March 5, 2008

Anne Burrell is still a mint love letter, beef cheek ravioli or lardo pizza short of  a career-making signature dish, but she’s well on her way to creating a signature restaurant in the neighborhood that made Mario Batali a star with Pó.  Below are a few high and lowlights from recent visits. 

1) Lamb Ragú: Well-priced, polyphonic flavor bomb of a sauce on perfectly cooked pasta.  No stunt ingredients, no hot or sour flavor tweaks.  Just disciplined time-honored, ingredient-honoring low and slow technique.  Can’t wait to try the boar version. 

2) Chicken Liver Paté: Generous flavors, generous size, low cost for kitchen and client.  Taste and nose are deeply earthy—good barnyard, not Missouri manure pond—but it’s a dish that needs to be shared.  Don’t go solo unless you like mid-afternoon fat sweats.  Deviled eggs are also worthwhile, though not as surprising as when they hit the menu at Blue Smoke a few years ago.  A rumpus room favorite from Midwest childhood.

3) Quartinos: Fun idea but arguably a bit pricey, and inexcusably a bit warm, especially the reds.  I love sun in the glass, just not sun on the glass.  Also, servers need not break the flow of conversation and courses by darting about refilling wine glasses from these diminutive little containers.  Even the most uncoordinated of drunkards can self-pour from tiny-tyke Sippee Cup serving vessels.

4) Centro Vinoteca’s Meat Balls: Biggest (Flavored) of Them All

Grilled up at lunch time and sandwiched between bread that’s just about texturally perfect, the savory lamb treats will make the afternoon nap that much sweeter.  No finer ground globes of meat in City at moment.

5) Cappuccino Panna Cotta:  Texture is dead on, flavors are harmonious, portion size is irresponsible and perfect.  Here chocolate covered coffee beans are delightful grace note rather than the usual gratuitous garnish.

Further advice:

1) Rinse carefully after eating the panna cotta.  I forgot to and went to a meeting looking like a Skoal Bandit had exploded in my mouth.  

2) Don’t waste cab fare on the overpriced grappa pairing.  Otto’s offerings are more fun and a heck of a lot cheaper.   Alto’s are more refined and about the same price.