Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Maialino Restaurant Week Lunch

Maialino has solidified an esteemed place in my list of favorite city meals. It's on the tip of my tongue when I make restaurant recommendations and at the front of my brain when it comes time to choose where to make Restaurant Week reservations.

A weekday lunch at Maialino can make you appreciate life. It's comfortable in a way that makes you desire a leisurely lunch, one that makes you want each bite to linger in your mouth. With so many options on the menu, Maialino demonstrates that it isn't just trying to get through Restaurant Week. You are meant to enjoy yourself here. My dining companion and I preferred approaching each course by ordering a set of constrating dishes.

You might start with the fried cod and lemon. This isn't fried seafood that takes you to New England. It keeps you here, squarely within the territory of chef Nick Anderer. It's hot enough to burn your mouth. It's super salty, but squeeze the lemon to cut the saltiness; the flaky white fish maintains its independence under the smooth coating of crispy batter.

The agnolotti di zucca — pumpkin agnolotti with balsamic & ricotta salata — are light bites that give you a little bit of sweet, a little bit of salty and savory in the generous sprinkling of cheese.

The spezzatini d'agnello, the lamb stew, black olives & spinach, was different than I expected it to be, but when lamb seems to be on every other restaurant menu right now, that's a bonus point. The stew consisted of chunkier pieces of meat, sliced before cooking and served in a minimal amount of liquid. I'm not a fan of olives, but thankfully they were more of a garnish.

The pacheri all'amatriciana with spicy tomato & guanciale was a simple, delicious pasta. Based on my experiences at Maialino, any pasta is worth ordering. The pasta's always cooked al dente as it should be. I would've liked a little more spiciness in this dish, but it was otherwise lovely.

The torta della nonna, the pine nut tart with lemon caramel, is a fluffy custard cake on a buttery pastry crust, perfect with the pine nuts.

To accompany our sweet dessert, we went with the three cheeses served with sunflower honey. There was a soft cheese, a creamy gorgonzola and a hard parmesan-like cheese. Although I've never loved honey, this sunflower version was a great way to bring out a sweetness with the cheese.

This is a meal that will make you feel good —you likely won't go wrong no matter what you order and there's comfort in that.

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