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chef's tasting at Italienne

I will never figure out the magic rules that a hostess follows when seating guests. As the restaurant opened the hostess shepherded me into the dining room, just at the entrance to Siberia. Should I ask for a reassignment? or resort to my usual #alonedate preference, the bar, which I intentionally shunned that night that since I had planned for the long-winded chef’s tasting. It wasn't worth the fuss and I was curious to see the rest of the space. (final judgment: illustrious but hollow. The restaurant grew slightly more lively, and my isolation was compensated by attentive servers of unmistakable cheer.

italienne is French for "italian" so mostly the dishes hail from northern Italy, bent toward tubers and thick creamy cheeses. Pete Well’s review was mixed, calling out an identity crisis, but the restaurant seems to have gotten the notice and settled on the one mode. Nothing I ate was subpar and no one could accused the food of being bland; every dish was zealously spiced and sauced. But, this somehow counter-intuitively resulted with (a few exceptions) in food that was palatably inoffensive and unmemorable. A run down below.

Frico di patate. for a week now i’ve been thinking about this. A crisp pancake of potato chunks—unbroken unmashed cubes—sealed in fried cheese. Topped with speck, indiscernible flecks of horseradish, and sweetly pickled red cabbage, this dish is more than the sum of its parts. It magically and divinely emulates a sour cream and onion potato chip.

polpettine on a bed of polenta. the perfect pork-beef ratio dressed with (red) onions that have been nicely caramelized into a sticky-sweet strand that holds its shape, retaining a toothsome give similar to kelp. I surmise this agrodolce (sweet sour) argument was concocted to convince of polenta’s pleasures in fear of its potential blandness. a shame, since these were made of anson mills (a big deal!) blue corn, which i haven’t ever had and that my tongue is still none the wiser for.

I did faithfully return to this fougasse, the French version of focaccia shaped like an olive-branch, for a few oily herb-scented bites between each course.

a pasta duo:

pappardelle smothered in a beef and chicken liver ragu, a nice touch.

gnocchi with spinach and mushroom cream sauce. Both were oversauced and aggressively seasoned, perhaps to the favor of the general populace (wandering tourists, fancy-but-basic flatiron 10-6ers) and not the chef?

seabass with porcini three ways; macerated into paste; roasted; foamed. sunchokes add sweetness. have you spotted the trend? at this point it was stamped onto my tastebuds.

butter milk pannacotta with housemade preserves. lovely overall, but i wish I was given a more inventive dish though—Wells raved about the work of the pastry chef. Beginning to wonder whether pannacotta might be the new lava cake...




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