May 29, 2011

Brainless and no magic

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I'm not normally in the habit of visiting new restaurants within the first couple of months of business.  Most of the time the establishments haven't worked everything out yet, and either the food or the service - or both - will disappoint.  As fellow blogger KC commented, I'm reluctant to go and step on landmines.

Unusually, I found myself joining a group of friends for lunch at Al Molo today.  Michael White is a big name in the food circles of New York, and there were high expectations when this place opened.  Legolas Jr. had worked out a menu with the chef so that we can try out a bunch of pastas in 1/4 tasting portions, which was a great way to get a feel for this place.

Creste: cockscomb pasta, shrimp, taggia olives, broccoli rape pesto - this was OK.  There were little cubes of zucchini, but the "pesto" was completely overpowered by the olives.  A little underwhelming...

Casarecci: semolina pasta, clams, squid, spicy tomato - this wasn't that good.  I thought the pasta was actually a little overcooked and soft.  The manila clams from Washington were OK, and the local flying squid was just so-so.  Interesting that the chef used breadcrumbs...

Garganelli: pasta quills, prosciutto, truffle cream, peas - the best dish today by far.  The hand-rolled pasta was pretty good, and the cream - with the lightest touch of black truffle bits - was delightful.  The prosciutto was a little on the salty side, but still very tasty.

Fusilli: bone marrow, octopus - a surprise since it's not on the menu.  Finally, the pasta came to me with some bite instead of being soft and flabby.  The octopus was OK, although a little chewy.  The pieces of bone marrow were kinda tiny, and each of us probably only had one teeny little bit.  I found little chewy bits in the sauce, and was wondering what they were... until I looked at one closely and realized they were the little suckers from the octopus that had fallen off.  Again I was a little surprised at the use of breadcrumbs.

Agnolotti: Piemontese meat ravioli, sage, red wine sauce - pretty delish.  The filling was rich, and the sage was very prominent.  Interestingly I thought I chewed on a tiny piece of ligament, which was perhaps part of the veal... that I thought was too bouncy to be the pasta itself.  The red wine sauce was viscous and rich, and Dyson 2000 commented that there was lots of collagen which coated her lips.

With just 5 pastas in tasting portions, lunch was a lot lighter than I had expected.  Good thing, because it meant I could still have dinner tonight.

The verdict?  I think all of us - and there were quite a few - were underwhelmed.  Michael White is best known for his pastas, but there was no magic in what we had today.  None of the dishes wow'ed us or even came close.  For the prices charged, the portions served and the quality we received, they were pretty good deals.  Pretty good for a casual meal, but that's about it.

Service, as I fully expected, was pretty bad.  A friend had joked about this place being "brain-less" - "Molo" in Cantonese sounds like "冇腦"... and that's pretty much how I would describe the waitstaff.  An example would be the tall, thin Chinese waitress with golden hair.  My glass was empty and I waved for her to refill it with water.  She made no secret of her displeasure at being asked to perform this task, came over reluctantly with a pitcher, and poured some water into my glass.  Afterwards she simply walked away, and didn't bother to check and see if other glasses were empty and needed refilling.  I was flabbergasted.  She was either brain-dead, couldn't care less, or both.

I can't exactly say that I stepped on a landmine today, but at the same time I'm trying pretty hard to come up with a reason for a return visit...


Fritos and Foie Gras said...

I just found your blog by searching for restaurants to visit when I go to Paris and I just have to the way you eat and write! I had to grab a snack of peaches and mascarpone just reading this entry, because I got so hungry!

Peech said...

Haha... thanks! I love the way I eat, too! Pity my waistline doesn't...


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