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Archive for December 6th, 2006

Arthur called me to tell me that he was taking me out to one of the BR Guest Restaurants for dinner and I could choose anyone I wanted.  I chose Fiamma Osteria  located on the cusp of TriBeCa and Soho based on its recent one Michelin star rating.  Sadly, I visited Fiamma Osteria only weeks after the head chef [and Michelin star getting] quit.  Of course, it’s not just the chef that gets a restaurant into the Michelin guide, the restaurant as a whole, including its service is taken into account.  I didn’t let the absent head chef get me too down though because I’ve heard fabulous things about his chef de cuisine who’d be taking over though. 

[since I’m behind on my blogging, I’ve decided to try to shorten my entries and curb my tendency to overwrite by making this as systematic as possible]

 fiamma
i like how “Fiamma” looks like its in flames

SPACE:  It’s definitely bigger than I imagined from looking from outside.  There is a wine cellar downstairs and I think there are private rooms there too [not sure as the doors were closed].  The pictured portion is the main dining area where Arthur and I sat.  In addition, there’s a third level upstairs.  All tables are adorned with leather seats with one arm rest [my conclusion is that it makes it easier to get out of your seat- you can slide from the side instead of having to pull your chair all the way back]. 

 fiamma inside fiamma inside
hmm.. which one do you prefer?

SERVICE:  I was pleased with the service; our waiter was pretty attentive.  I would be really mad if the service was bad because it was a Wednesday night and the restaurant wasn’t packed.  Our waiter kept coming up to check up on us and our water-level-in-cup was watched fairly close even though we ordered Pellegrino.  I would’ve been happy pouring my own water, since I didn’t have to wait for the but our guy would have none of that. 

FOOD: 

The bread basket was simple as you can see, but what surprised me was the spread they provided.  Ground up garlic with olive oil and ground pepper.  I’ve never actually had this before in a restaurant [not that I’ve never put garlic on my bread] and it was a pleasant surprise.  I know my garlic fiend of a sister would’ve definitely enjoyed it.   To me, this is a good alternative to butter and plain olive oil.

bread platter

 Out of all the dishes, I was most awed by the appetizer.  I chose the foie gras because Arthur has never tried it before.  I’ve only had the pate version myself so I knew from reading Anthony Bourdain that this should be good.  The dish is called fegato and it is a pan seared duck foie gras with baby spinach and persimmon on the side, caramelized onion sauce, marsala glaze, and pistacchio and onion rings to top things off.  When I was eating the persimmon, we couldn’t for the life of us remember the name.  We were describing the fruit to each other but we just couldn’t figure its name !  I asked the waiter and he told me it was an Italian quince and that’s a lie.  I google imaged Italian quince and it is not a persimmon.

foie gras

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that it’s truffle season and I’m absolutely obsessed.  Fiamma offers a 10 gram portion of truffle over selected dishes for $75.  Arthur tried to convince me to get it because I couldn’t stop drooling over the option but I had to decline.  It’s an awfully nice gesture, but I feel bad eating away $75 like that.   I decided instead to order the garganelli- imolese quill pasta, San Danielle prosciutto, Treviso truffle butter, and parmigiano.  I figured I could get my truffle fix this way.  When this dish came out, it reminded me of the catavelli I had at Park Avenue Cafe.  I thought the pasta was a bit thick which made it tougher than normal pasta.  The pasta had a really heavy truffle aroma and I couldn’t stop stuffing my face in the pasta.  Thevdish had a good amount of prosciutto and provided the pasta with some saltiness.  The cream sauce was light, but the highlight was definitely the truffle butter- without it, the pasta would be boring.

truffle butter pasta

 Arthur ordered the monkfish special; it was monkfish wrapped in porsciutto, a grilled shallot, and some greens and mushrooms.  I always thought the whole meat product wrapped in bacon thing was so clever.  I forget what type of sauce it came with [this always happens when I have to listen to someone recite the dishes instead of going on the website and look it up].  Everyone always says that monkfish is the “poor man’s lobster” because of it’s taste and consistency.  I have no idea what lobster tastes like but I never imagined it to taste like monkfish.  From looks alone, monkfish seems to have a tougher texture, which to me is more along the lines of mahi mahi.  The prosciutto-ed monk fish was good with the sweetness of the shallot. 

monkfish

After all this, I still wanted dessert.  Arthur sat this one out, but I eyed a trio of sorbetti.  There was concord grape, comapri-grapefruit, and apple cider.  Each sorbet came with a slice of dried fruit, ex. apple for apple cider.  They all tasted true to their real respective fruits, in fact, the apple cider tastes like it had mashed up apple in ir.  The concord grape was veryyy good; I was very pleased with its not too tarty grape flavor.  The grapefruit however, was wayy too bitter.  I can usually eat grapefruit without sugar, but the sorbet tastes kind of bitter and tasted like the rind of the grapefruit made it into the flavor of the sorbet.

sorbet dessert

The restaurant also gave us two tiny brownies- they were about the size of my thumb.  They were topped with whipped cream, raspberry and blueberry.  It was a nice gesture and it was pretty tasty.  They also gave us each two cubes of chocolate truffles to go!

brownie brownie
to give you an idea of portions

To Go or Not To Go: I wouldn’t say that this place is worth the money.  The dishes didn’t wow me off my seat but they were good all around.  They do offer items that are definitely a chance from the typical alfredo.  Eating here did made me realize that I like my foie gras seared.  The quality of the ingredients were fresh and top notch.  I would certainly come back if I wanted a break from regular Italian.  I say that if you want Italian that is definitely going to not disappoint you, then why not try this place out?  

—–

I will leave you with a little poem from Li Young Lee entitled “Persimmon”

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down the newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew on the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down,
I teach her Chinese. Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set them both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang. The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father would stay up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons, swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.

He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

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