Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Convivio Restaurant Week Review

If you are looking for excellent food in an elegant setting without emptying your wallet, get yourself to Convivio for lunch during Restaurant Week, which has been extended to February 27. Though its Tudor City location is a bit out of the way, Convivio is making the best use of this deal to show people why they should make the extra effort to return. Unlike some places during Restaurant Week, Convivio makes sure you feel no less of a valued customer than a diner during any other time of the year.

My dining companions and I were able to sample the entire RW menu. These dishes were evidence that just because its winter doesn't mean that heavy foods are the only option. You won't find your average flavor pairings here. Yet, they're almost always successful; when they're not, it's the attempt that counts.

The crostini — tuna, white beans, rosemary, piquillo — were heavier on the beans. Tuna and white beans are no strangers, but the rosemary and piquillo seemed uneasy in this mix. Something about it tasted odd and this is probably the one thing on the menu that wasn't a real hit.

The lentil soup with prosciutto and garlic croutons was well balanced. The chunks of meat and vegetables made it filling.

The bibb lettuce salad with hazelnuts, grapefruit and pecorino was a bright, lively mixture — simple, but refreshing.

Marinated mackerel with kale, citrus and salmoriglio, (a sauce made from lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped oregano and parsley, salt and pepper) was a nice, healthy dish, a match for the months when we're less active and burning off fewer calories.

The pancetta — fresh grilled pork belly, sunchokes, vin cotto — is something to write home about. "Dear ______, I had the most amazing dish today. Why have I never come across something like this, even though I have eaten so much Italian food in my life?" The sauce, which comes from the reduction of a sweet grape, was so perfectly integrated that it seemed like the meat's natural flavor. The roasted sunchokes and carrots were a great side. It made me realize I had been mistakenly hating sunchokes all this time.

The semolina spaghetti with pesto cetarese and shrimp was also delicious. The spaghetti had a slightly coarser texture and the pesto was more complex than your usual pesto. But the shrimp could have been sweeter.

Affogato: ramazzotti gelato, freshly-brewed espresso. Ice cream and coffee — you can't really go wrong.

The budino was the classic warm dark chocolate cake, covered in candied hazelnuts and served with hazelnut gelato. The cake was dense but made of good chocolate and the gelato was infused with nuttiness.

Panna cotta pera: brown sugar custard, red wine poached pear, spiced pear sorbet. The panna cotta itself didn't taste like much, but the sorbet made up for what the custard lacked in flavor. And the poached pears made this a beautiful dish.

This was one of the top Restaurant Week meals I've had as a whole — lovely atmosphere, good service and terrific food. More restaurants should follow their lead. 

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