Sunday, June 6, 2010
Sorella is (yet another) new joint on the LES. But that's not at all to disparage it; we need new ones opening as quickly as all the other ones are shuttering down. The name comes from the chefs- two best friends that apparently feel like sisters (Sorella is "sister" in Italian). The exterior facade is a flat wall created from what appears to be salvaged wooden wine bottle storage frames, which is in good keeping with their desire to decorate with "as much friggin' wine paraphernalia as possible". You'll miss it if you don't know where you're going, as it tends to look almost boarded up itself, in the coolest possible way. Plus, there is a glass pane above the door with the name etched in gold, a nice balance to the stark facade.
Which is basically how the whole restaurant goes. It is a dichotomy of masculine and feminine, of profundity and frivolity. The front bar area is dark and loungey, with a thick heavy counter, but the back dining room is lighter and airier, with a whimsical
glass ceiling and dangly hand-made pink crystal "chandeliers". Funny little plants abound, as do caricatures of little girls, and all things porcine. The servers are wonderfully helpful, whisking about the room to attend to each patron, and your napkin is always perfectly refolded upon a return from the restroom. But this brisk attentiveness is a quirky juxtaposition with their un-uniformed outfits of Tom's shoes and cut-offs, thinly worn tee-shirts and ubiquitous tatouage. The menu subsists mostly of "qualcosina"- their translation of tapas to quirky Italian. Three entree options are also offered on a daily basis, which are (slightly) more substantial, and substantially more pricey. The fact that the chefs are women, however, does not imply that the food is in any way as dainty as the decor: quite the contrary, in fact. It is almost as if they are trying to out-macho the machos, which they basically accomplish on all counts. ( Or else they just like it that way.)
The food here are robust. Not to say there aren't herbal hints (such as the earthy mint touch in a lamb tajarin, and lovely
pickled cherries in a bountiful arugula salad) an very thoughtful, balanced flavors. But meat and butter abound: short rib agnolotti are nothing more than that, not that exciting,
and simply dusted with cheese and a couple fried leaves of sage. Some exquisite Ligurian anchovies served with a smear of garlicky lemon butter and a deliciously nutty cracker flatbread are similarly tantalizing, but salty and substantial. That lamb tajarin is a creamy tangle of noodles and ragu, buttery and cheesy and full of nuts.
Salads boasted nuts and cheeses and flavorful dressings.
For a main, we opted for one of the daily special's of a porcini crusted halibut. This was a modest portion of fish,
perfectly cooked with slices of roasted peach and littered with some mild shredded greens, an odd pairing that worked marvelously, but was notably amped up with generous lashings of butter and a salty, mushrooms flecked sauce that kicked any "spa-cuisine" right out of that expectedly light fruit-garnished fish dish. Also, for a whopping $34 was shockingly similar to the size of the "qualcosinas". Which is, well, saying qualcosa.
I again (as at Morandi) caught brussels sprouts on their way out in vernal genuflection, but these were no dietetic vegetables. Smothered in a mustardy apple-flecked cream, these sprouts were halved and virtually blackened in butter, and paired with an almost 1:1 ratio with bacon.
Trying to go light on dessert, we opted for a semifreddo with raspberries. This was a gorgeous little dessert, and the the least
gluttonous choice of the night. It needed a little time for the semi- to nudge out the freddo- to soften up, but was a lovely summery pudding. Coffee is Counter Culture: thick and chocolately and served in big, cups. Of course. This food, my friends, is not for the faint of heart.