August 2, 2008

The return to Da Domenico

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Last night I finally made a return visit to Da Domenico after an absence of more than 5 years. I had stayed away from this establishment because of a perceived lack of service, but primarily because I felt that anything that wasn't a "special" wasn't really worth having. But if one were to have the "special" then the bill would instantly skyrocket, leaving me wondering whether I would be better off at a 5-star hotel where at least there would be excellent service...

The reservation was for 8:30pm, and I was the first to arrive at 8:45pm. The first question from the waiter was something like: "Do you know when the others would arrive? The reservation was for 8:30?!" Hmmm... not a good start on the service front - but I guess it's not unexpected. I sit down at our table and wait for the others to arrive.

I immediately take note that the waitstaff - all two waiters plus a bartender/waiter - were buzzing around the place and running around like headless chickens. They were simply too busy and didn't know how to execute things in order of priority. For one of the tables, they didn't have time to clear the leftover plates and glasses until at least 30 minutes after the diners had left the restaurant. And there were a couple of tables around with leftover dishes. Took us a while to get their attention to bring us some water, as the waiter insisted on first laying down the extra setting that we requested, and then bringing us the menu...all the while leaving us very thirsty. When I got tired of waiting for them to come back, I went to the bar and asked for a corkscrew so I could do the wine service myself. I brought the wine to dinnr, so why couldn't I be the one popping the corks? The waiter happily obliged.

The 2003 Kongsgaard VioRus was a delicious wine. A very floral nose that was just classic Viognier, with notes of almond marzipan, minerals and sweet corn. The wine was very ripe and sweet on the palate, and with 14.1% alcohol it certainly also tasted very "hot". I loved it and couldn't have enough of this wine.

When the last few friends arrived around 9:05pm, we were told by the waiter that it was already "last order" and could we please look at the menu quickly. What?! 9pm last order?! Did I walk through a portal and ended up in another country?

For starter I ordered the grilled cheese, whose Italian name escapes me... The blob of cheese arrived on a plate with two halves of a cherry tomato, dripped in a bit of balsamic vinegar. Honestly, this really wasn't anything special - just looks and tastes like toasted mozzarella.

Fortunately the main course made up for all the disappointments up until now. The grilled scampi was simply awesome. I can't describe it any other way. Awesome. The plate was fully laden with the shellfish, and I was genuinely surprised with how many of them were in front of me. Of course, given the very high price for the dish, I would have been very upset if there were only a handful. I offer some to friends around the table and everyone is happy. The tail is very fresh and sweet, even better than the ones from the Mandarin Grill the night before. I dispense with the cutlery and dig in with my hands. With the head and the claws in front of me, I eagerly chew on these delicious bits and savor every bit. One of the friends saw what I was doing, and commented that I "looked like a kid in a candy store." He was absolutely right. I was in heaven. I left nothing to waste, going through every head and claw to try to get at everything.

Even though I didn't get a taste, the plate of linguine gamberi next to me also looked pretty damn good. The red shrimps out of their shells looked fat and yummy. Gotta try it next time.

I popped open the 2005 Guigal La Doriane because I ran out of the Kongsgaard. It was so different from my last bottle. The wine was explosively ripe both on the nose and the palate. Coming from 2005, it was understandably "hot" with a spicy after palate. It was pretty atypical for a Condrieu, since the floral notes were not very evident. We went through about half the bottle and I save the rest for another day.

We order two different tartuffos - black and white. Most places don't offer the tartuffo blanco, and I did not regret order this here. Yummy white chocolate with a bit of espresso infused.

So what's the verdict? A resounding YES! The service was non-existent, and I would actually give negative marks for it. And maybe you will have some dishes which leave you wondering why you had to pay such outrageous sums for them. But when you get to taste dishes like the grilled scampi (and by all accounts, the linguine gamberi), redemption would have been achieved. You will come back for more. And I most certainly will. Soon.


Pete said...

Was it scamorza cheese? I'm already salivating at your description of your meal!

Peech said...

yes, it was scamorza! Thanks for reminding me.


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