Monday, June 20, 2011

Bar Rosso Boom or Bust?

This weekend, I went to a lover-ly birthday celebration at Bar Rosso. Clearly, acres of people tried to figure out its charms long before me because the joint was packed. We sat up on the second level with a view of the bar, the stunning textured lighting and quite a collection of Saturday night cleavage. There's a lot to love at our newest resto fixture, but it's not all crystal, sparkling perfection. Let's take a look at the:

Decor: People in my party familiar with Bennett's said they could hardly believe it was the same space. Apparently the staircase was the only vestige of the building's former self. The shaded bulbs in the fixtures, rough cut stone walls, hammered cutlery and black iron accents made for an upscale rustic feel. The space is both intimate and enormous. There were delicate touches as well, like paper thin wine glasses that were so light we almost broke them. It was an impressive, sophisticated space to enjoy a meal with friends.

Service: It's hard to find fault in the decor, but it's not quite the same challenge when the service is put to the test. Our initial greeting was warm and inviting. However, attention to detail was not their strong suit. The waiter brought out a small bowl of some dark condiment, explaining that it was spicy sauce "or something." Very specific. Although they did well accommodating our large table, the wait between courses was ridiculous - which was particularly bizarre because they limited us to a set menu because of the group's size. Although we only had three dinner options, they still managed to bring my neighbor the wrong one. Another guest never received the coffee he ordered. That same guest asked for a single flavor of the gelato trio, but still received all three like everyone else. Although they're doing quite a few things right, service is not yet one of them.

Food: I should say that although we were presented with a limited menu, our options were excellent. My one gripe is that they failed to print prices on our set menu, so we had no idea what cost what. Still, I ordered the grilled vegetable appetizer, the baked chicken entree and the gelato. The vegetables were very much in keeping with the atmosphere: rustic and rich. I enjoyed the provincial flavor of the eggplant, but I could have done without the shock of the green olives. I generally prefer that sort of dish served warm, but it was tasty and charmingly presented in a simple dark glazed bowl. My fellow party goers had praise for the calamari, but wanted some sort of dipping sauce. Perhaps the upscale version is a nudist. My husband ordered the salad, and the dressing had a little too much punch for me, but I liked the thin, broad slivers of carrots. The texture was just right.

As for the entree, I adored the chicken. I never eat chicken with the skin, and I'd forgotten how much moisture and flavor it lends. Yum! I enjoyed the cheesy roasted potatoes, but the dish could have used a little something green. The balsamic glaze was particularly palate pleasing. Most people liked the spaghetti and meatballs. It was a variation on spicy meatballs to have a spicy sauce with a mild meatball, but I suppose it's a good plan to change up a classic dish. Some people noted that the sauce overwhelmed the meat, but other folks had high praise. My friend, TL, ordered the steak and had no regrets. She particularly appreciated the potatoes and the companion sauce (and I appreciated the tender fava bean I stole off her plate!).

The gelato trio was delish. The chocolate was phenomenal - hands down, the highlight of the meal - and paired well with the caramel/sea salt and basil. I didn't know what to expect with basil gelato, but it was an unmistakable, fresh seasonal treat. A friend shared a bite of the rosemary pound cake, which was unique and fabulous. It was grilled and served with strawberries and cream on a long slender plate. The texture was toasted on the outside, soft on the inside and melded seamlessly with the savory stewed berries. My husband had the third option (whose name escapes me now) and it was a vaguely suggestive-looking churro-like pastry served with bananas. Its odd shape made it a challenge to eat gracefully, but the flavors were spot on.

At almost $100/person, it was not a penny pincher's evening, but we had a splendid time among friends eating fine food in an amazing venue. I would definitely go back and see what the rest of the menu has to offer (and see if the service has risen to the promise of the setting).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was there today the place is very nice had the calamari
and it was good with honey never had it that way before.just had the broccoli rabe pizza very good but i think it still took to long. But I'll have to go back and try some of the food.