February 5, 2009

Mucho gusto

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A new place opened in my neighborhood recently, so naturally I was eager to check it out, especially since it's supposed to be a good place for comfort food. Gusto is apparently opened by the people behind Volar, so expectations are that it would be kinda hip.

The space is pretty small, although there is a second floor. In fact it feels like a bar, with banquettes, bar stools and high tables. We were seated are one of the regular tables where I spent a couple of hours in a backless chair (there was some cushioning against my lower back) and my friend sat on the banquette. The square table between us was so ridiculously small the waiters soon realized that they had to give us an extra table in order to fit the third dish, since the two of us were sharing and not having individual dishes. We really couldn't understand why they didn't see fit to give us a couple of more inches on either side of the table...

I had brought along a bottle of wine that I had opened at home. The bartender came and poured me a glass, and I was pleasantly surprised. He was obviously taught not to "overpour" as I would need to swirl the wine in the glass, and he finished pouring with a twist of the wrist so that no excess wine dripped from the bottle. Impressive. Unfortunately the other waiters and waitressed didn't have a clue, and proceeded to pour too much into our glasses later on in the evening.

The 2005 Domaine Bachelet Bourgogne is a (relatively) cheap drinking wine from a great vintage. Nose of sweet grass, straw, apple, minerals, sous-bois and mint. Good amount of body and tannins since it is a young wine. Actually this needs at least 2 hours of aeration if not more.

We ordered 3 starters and 2 "main courses" to share:

Macaroni with 3-cheese gratin - I love mac'n'cheese, and one with a crust would be even better. This is nice but a bit dry, and I wish it were more creamy and cheesy. The crust does make it more interesting, though.

Skewered scallops with chorizo - classic combination of scallops paired with pork. The presentation here is kinda Japanese. The chunks of chorizo were nice and spicy, and the chewy texture provided a nice contrast to the tender scallops.

The chicken wings were interesting because they took each wing apart and prepared them separately. The marinate provided some nice flavors, with rosemary showing prominently. It would be even better if the flavors had reached the meat on the inside, but this is still pretty yummy. Ranch dressing was OK, but we were bemoaning the absence of celery and carrot sticks...

We wanted to try the ratatouille with cous cous since it most certainly will not show up on the menu of fine dining restaurants. This was OK but could use some tweaking. First of all the ratatouille itself is not watery enough, and could use more tomato. The serving of cous cous suffered from being too dry at the top, while the middle and bottom of the heap was OK.

The last dish was probably my favorite - rigatoni bolognese. The tube pasta was cooked well with just a hint of chewiness for that al dente touch. The beef ragù was nice with some chewy lumps, and it was on the drier side so easy to pick up with a fork. Homey comfort food indeed.

We couldn't resist ordering the Nutella panini, even though we were both pretty full. This was a bit of a let-down. Yes, the Nutella was nice, especially after being heated. But they shouldn't have used thick, hard panini. We both thought that very thin slices of toast (crusts cut off) would have been perfect. Oh well.

I'm pretty glad that I have a new neighborhood restaurant that I can go to, in addition to all the other good casual places around. The food is decent and I'm sure that I'll pop in once in a while to get my fix on something. But I wonder whether I would make many return visits if I lived elsewhere and had to jump into a car to get here...

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