The room looms lofty and spacious, duskily lit and warm, with high enough ceilings and an open mezzanine to diffuse any ambient noise that might otherwise interfere with the grey-haired gentleman's subtle tinkling of the ivories on a Steinway cached underneath a spiral staircase. (Visit their website: www.delpostonyc.com, for a lilting sample of the music) A softly lit bar lines the south wall and tables horseshoe around behind the maitre d's podium at the entrance, creating the grand effect of a theatre.
But the room is far, far from the main attraction at Del Posto. The grace of service providing this excellent food makes me rank this restaurant as one of the best, if not THE best, high-end Italians in the city. I didn't even know to expect the quality that was inherent in every aspect of my meal here, and although the price points should've alerted me, I came away somehow feeling it was more than for even what was paid.
We were welcomed with a triage of individual amuses... all individual flavor bombs that set the stage for the rest of the meal. A tiny shot of truffled veal consomme flecked with herbs was soothing and saline, restorative yet indulgent. Crisped rice ensconced a robust filling of cheese and herbs in miniature, revamped arancini. A tiny fritter of chickpea emitted the heady fragrance of truffles, and toasty breadcrumbs swaddled an oozing nugget of melted burrata. After all those rich, "complimentary" delicacies, I chose a salad, simply prepared but abundantly dressed in chopped black truffles that I began to smell from about fifteen feet away. Never have a pile of greens tasted so sumptuous and extravagant, such that the presence of any onion, tomato, cucumber, fennel, mushroom or other salad-esque addition would have been completely superfluous. A plentiful basket of chewy, warm housemade rolls (mine, a floury-crusted multi-grain) was integral in capitalizing on every last morsel of fragrant truffle. To spread upon these were a milky fresh butter, but also the one demerit of the repast: a waxy pork fat puree- like lard-oleo- barely salted and tasting like cold, congealed bacon fat... except maybe not even as good. I'm sure this is Mario's residual influence here, and there must be those out there with a taste for such? (Hello? Echo, echo, echo....) But at any rate, it's easily skippable.
Of pastas, all made in-house, a slippery tangle of spaghetti with Dungeness was perked up with scallions and jalapenos... a snazzy little kick to the hulking slabs of sweetly mild crabmeat. Another, very different selection were tiny agnolotti stuffed with veal, swimming in buttery broth redolent of pecorino and generously coated in truffle dust. The pasta in this one was a bit heavy, overpowering its delicate meat filling, but the luscious broth lubricated the ensemble to the effect of a happy coupling.
Secondi offered as much variety, but by far my blue ribbon landed upon a brown butter lobster with brussels sprouts leaves, pumpkin and shiitakes (as well as some misplaced walnuts, but they weren't offensive- just incongruous). The lobster was brilliantly slicked with a dark, umami-rich drizzle hinting of balsamic and stock, surrounded by the earthy, chunky vegetables in perfect proportion.
Lamb was a little less appealing to me, firstly in that it seemed more rare than medium rare, but also the accompanying artichokes were braised to resemble more the canned variety, with flavors of white vinegar and wine rather than the earthy heft they exhibit when roasted. But the dish, nonetheless, was left with just two stripped bones akimbo on the plate when all was said and done, so obviously nothing I, hardly a lamb afficionado, could critique.
Italian generosita came out in droves with dessert: we order the butterscotch semifreddo, a soft orb of frozen custard atop a thick smear of dulce de leche, incised with a crisp tuile tasting snarkily like frosted flakes, but that melted on the tongue. Below puddled a macedonia of melon and citrus, cutting the rich, taffy-sweetness of the caramelly dulce and buttery custard. For novelty's sake, we also sampled the Melanzane e Cioccolato. For my own sake, however, it was to compare it to Matteo Boglione's version at White + Church, and of all the delicacies consumed at Del Posto, this was one which I had had better elsewhere.... namely, Chef Boglione's. But this version was nothing to shake a stick at, but the eggplant's flavor was more pronouncedly bitter and less caramelized, so as to stick out much more like an ill-fitted vegetable amongst the sheep's milk stracciatella and its cosmic loops of dark, semisweet chocolate.
The sweets did not stop there, however, as out came a charming little drawered cheese grater, with miniature cookies and tarts and cakes atop, chocolates, candies and a most ethereal little caramel-filled dehydrated grapefruit concoction that I wished was full-dessert-plate sized. Although most impractical that would have been. But somehow, I feel that this restaurant has a really magical quality to it, so that, if it were even remotely possible, Del Posto could make it happen.
|85 10th Avenue |