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Jason Perlow

Del Posto

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I had dinner at Del Posto last night, and had very mixed impressions. I have some philosophical problems with the restaurant, but more on that later. First of all, the space itself is stunning. Very elegant and grand. I felt like I was in a grand 19th century ballroom, in a good way. I met one of my party a little early for a drink. The snack mix they gave us at the bar was great - really nicely spiced. They got my cocktail wrong at first, but it was easily fixable. The wine by the glass list was pretty good and diverse. I eventually had a nice glass of aglianico.

The food was hit or miss. I started with a warm mushroom appetizer which was the best course of the night. Then we got the nudi with broccoli rabe pesto and that was totally forgettable. Next was the gnocchi with braised pork shoulder, which was tasty, but suffered from gummy gnocchi. My main course was the lamb. I thought it was weird that the server didn't ask me for a temperature, and the lamb came out close to medium well. The different parts were unidentifiable, and half were too tough to cut through with the steak knife they gave me. The dish was a complete mess. Dessert was a great chocolate souffle and a good watermelon granita.

Overall the food was pretty tasty, but for that price, that ambience, that type of service and that ambition, I thought Del Posto left a lot to be desired. Plating in every dish save one (nudi) was poorly thought out and poorly executed (just slopped on a plate). Ultimately, I think it speaks to the rusticity of Italian food in general, but if that's the case, can you truly have a four star Italian restaurant? Overall, the quality of the food didn't match anything else in the restaurant, and I just think that really turned me off. I don't think I'll go back unless someone else is paying.

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I believe one can have (NYT) 4 star Italian food, yes. Just visit Dal Pescatore in Italy. It is a Michelin *** restaurant where the food (and ambiance, and service) is fully deserving of its 3 (Michelin) stars without question. Del Posto is not remotely in the same league as a place like Dal Pescatore.

Del Posto is 90% hype IMHO. How Del Posto ever got two Michelin stars is beyond me.


Edited by DutchMuse (log)

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anyone see the comments in today's Wall Street Journal ..the review of Bitali's new restaurant in Los Angeles.. .as well as the comments about Del Posto... :smile:

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Bump..

We ate at Del Posto last night. I had held off for a while as I had heard mixed reviews and was in no hurry.

I was really impressed and that surprised me.

We had the "grand" tasting menu. Approx 175 per person as we actually were interested in the dishes offered.

The service was a bit annoying at first (Thanks, I understand what Osetra Caviar is) but loosened up once he realized we didn't just drive in from the 5 towns for a "night out"

I like the space and attentiveness. I also liked that it wasn't as uptight as other restaurants in terms of feel. It's a funny phenomenon that Americans think that being treated poorly is an indicator of fine dining.

Anyone else had any experiences of late?

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Bump..

We ate at Del Posto last night. I had held off for a while as I had heard mixed reviews and was in no hurry.

I was really impressed and that surprised me.

We had the "grand" tasting menu. Approx 175 per person as we actually were interested in the dishes offered.

The service was a bit annoying at first (Thanks, I understand what Osetra Caviar is) but loosened up once he realized we didn't just drive in from the 5 towns for a "night out"

I like the space and attentiveness. I also liked that it wasn't as uptight as other restaurants in terms of feel. It's a funny phenomenon that Americans think that being treated poorly is an indicator of fine dining.

Anyone else had any experiences of late?

Thanks heightsgtltd for that re-cap.

How were the portions? My fear is that doing the tasting would be overwhelming.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Thanks heightsgtltd for that re-cap. 

How were the portions?  My fear is that doing the tasting would be overwhelming.

Portions were not too large, about what you'd expect for a tasting menu. didn't feel overstuffed or too full.

We are actually heading back tonight to celebrate a family member's birthday. I will update on how the regular menu is...

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Thanks heightsgtltd for that re-cap. 

How were the portions?  My fear is that doing the tasting would be overwhelming.

Portions were not too large, about what you'd expect for a tasting menu. didn't feel overstuffed or too full.

We are actually heading back tonight to celebrate a family member's birthday. I will update on how the regular menu is...

So, heightsgtltd, how was the regular menu?

I was recently at Del Posto for a specially-arranged dinner. You can read a (much) more extensive review of that dinner (and see the pictures) at the ulterior epicure. Here are some excerpts:

*************************************************

"I was assured that Mark Ladner, Executive Chef of Del Posto, was cooking for us when the server came to our table to apologize that he had no clue what the chef was preparing. Apparently, Ladner had remained “tight-lipped” about our dinner. The courses would be revealed to our servers as the meal progressed.

...

That “Del Posto” means “of the place” in Italian hits squarely upon that for which I most appreciate about the restaurant. I can understand how less-informed (or, uninformed) diners might walk away from Del Posto being terribly deflated, or unimpressed - especially given the prices. (Although I did not see the regular menu, I have heard from many trusted sources that that prices exceed the value. I would tend to believe them given our $175 p/person dinner tab.).

I don’t mean to suggest (at all) that I’m a naturally “informed” diner. What I am saying is that our servers (and Chef Ladner) - no doubt because our party’s dinner had been specially-arranged - took extra care to explain the provenance of each course, each ingredient, each concept, each combination to us. It was like being read excerpted digests from the Oxford Companion to Italian Food for each composition they presented. This was great. I don’t know whether this sort of care is taken with the regular clientele. From what I have heard, it is not.

So, a tomato-based minestrone rife with perfectly-cooked beans and a confetti of fresh vegetables was teleported to us from Abruzzo. Apparently, this dish is served in that region on May 1st (just a few days before we ate at Del Posto), their “Labor Day,” to celebrate the beginning of the growing season.

The server explained that the Zupetta Le Virtu alla Machiagiana is traditionally made by cooking each vegetable separately. Each is added to the tomato broth, along with the meat items and finished off with a drizzle of olive oil.

There were small meatballs, made from beef and pork shoulder and tiny pieces of tripe. There were also bits of pig’s ear in the soup, which offered crunchy contrasts to the creamy beans and the soft, tender meatballs. (The pig’s ear’s was in the sofrito used for the soup, which was made from the restaurant’s testa.). It was a wonderful soup.

The spaghetti, we were told, was the only pasta that they bothered to import from Italy - from an artisanal pasta maker in I-forget-which-village. I’m sure there was a story behind a beautifully plated dish involving a scallop on a half shell and a razor clam. It was called frutti di mare di piastra. Piastra is an old Italian currency. But, I missed the explanation on that one.

Of course, it takes more than a good story to make a meal successful. And, for the most part, Del Posto delivered that, too. Given that Ladner was personally overseeing our dinner, I wasn’t surprised that there weren’t any objectionable pitfalls.

Here was our menu:

Canapes:

Sunchoke Chips with Truffled Dip

Baccala Fritter

Caviar and Boiled Egg Tart

Empanada

Whole wheat Soup

Antipasti:

Insalata Primavera, Ricotta Glassata & Perilla

Horseradish Panna Cotta with Insalata d’Astice & Sclopit

Vitello Tonnato Crudo with Mustards & Mache

Abalone Carpaccio, White Asparagus, & Charred Ramps

Frutti di Mare alla Piastra with Spring Lillies, Roots & Tubors

Primi:

Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab, Sliced Jalepeno & Scallion

Del Posto Agnolotti dal Plin with Golden Butter & Ramp Puree

Zuppetta Le Virtur all Marchigiana

Secondi:

Cacciucco with Baccala Mantecato & Zuppetta di Pannada

Veal Chop alla Milenese, Asparagus & Truffled Tongue Salad

Contorni:

Fried veal brains, arugula salad with kidneys, marinated maitake mushroom

Four bean salad with beef tendon

Palate Cleanser:

Celery sorbet with 25-year-aged Modena balsamic vinegar

Del Posto Dolci Misti:

Crostata di Limone

Crespelle di Polenta

Chocolate Ricotta Tortino

Butterscotch Semifreddo

Petits Fours

All of the dishes, except the contorni, are on the restaurant’s regular menu. I’m also obliged to note the bread service at Del Posto. It is very fine. The basket of ciabatta, foccacia, and baguettes were inhaled by out table within minutes. That there was lardo (!!!) and butter served alongside the buns didn’t hurt either.

I recently re-read Frank Bruni’s review of Del Posto, which published in March, 2006. I realized, after-the-fact, that we were served many of the dishes he mentioned. I don’t take the The New York Time’s restaurant critic’s word as gospel, but judging by my meal, I largely agreed with his assessment of Del Posto’s food.

...

Everyone at the table agreed that the Cacciucco was the most successful and memorable dish. This involved a very spicy tomato-based broth poured over an assortment of crustacea and shellfish: scallop, mussel, prawn (which, pleasantly, had its head split in half so I could scoop out the innards), and squid. The soup was “finished” with a drizzle of mantecato (which, I was only vaguely familiar with, conceptually, from reading about it in Giorgio Locatelli’s cookbook) - this version was a baccalao-infused cream. To my understanding, mantecato is the process by which cream/butter is “mounted” into a recipe, be it risotto or ice cream. This was not so much beat into the soup (as mantacatos usually are) as just drizzled over the soup.

The soup was warm and comforting. The seafood was perfectly-cooked. The spiciness was the most rewarding part of the rich and complex broth.

...

The wine pairings were very lackluster. The sommelier seemed particularly enthusiastic about the wines he was pairing - prattling off extensive knowledge about the terroir and tasting notes. To be sure, there were some very interesting wines. All of them were amiable by themselves. But, they did next to nothing for/with the food.

...

Bruni noted that Del Posto needed more blockbuster desserts. Two years later, I’d say they’re still working on that one. Our dolci were unexciting and forgettable. In fact, I thought the pre-dessert, a small dollop of celery sorbet annointed with just a few drops of 25 year-old balsamico, was better than any of the four desserts we were served. It was light and refreshing; the meal could have ended happily then and there.

We were served an assortment of the restaurant’s regular desserts in tasting portions; each of us took a bite and passed it down. The butterscotch semifreddo with butterscotch sauce was my favorite of the four.

...

Service was a little awkward. I couldn’t tell whether our servers were sycophantic, clueless, or despised us. Or, maybe, all three? That being said, on face value, everyone was hospitable. The only service issue of note was that at one point, they did pour tap water into our sparkling water. As we were on dolci, we didn’t say anything. The last time this happened to me was at The French Laundry. When I mentioned it, all of our water was replaced.

Chef Ladner was, without question, truly humble and very gracious. The New York Observer recently ran an extensive profile on Ladner, who has been aptly likened to Clark Kent in the Kitchen. He is quiet, and unassuming. He does wear those squarish black-framed glasses. And, he really does seem every bit as tall as he actually is. Now knowing that he cooks one day out of the week at Lupa, whence he came. I plan to make Lupa a stop in the future.

...

Again, what I appreciated most about the the restaurant is its dedication to history and development of Italian food. You will find at Del Posto, probably some of the more well-researched, esoteric, and regional Italian cuisine in the United States. It’s sort of an anthropological exercise in Italian cookery. The menu offers an eclectic assortment of different sensibilities - all Italian in some way. Perhaps this is too ambitious or unfocused - I can’t imagine a Chinese restaurant covering more than two regions on one menu with much success. But, for the most part, at least the food is well-executed.

I leave you with this self-description from Del Posto’s website for your consideration. I think it captures the theoretical (practicality being something totally different) purpose and spirit of Del Posto quite well:

“Del Posto is the ultimate expression of what an Italian restaurant should be. Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali represent a convergence of different styles and experiences. The restaurant concept generated at Del Posto can best be described as trans-generational: an expression of the evolution of cuisines, menus, service and ambiance that have characterized the history of the Italian dining experience in this country.”

Perhaps this European sensibility and authenticity, with a few creative detours, is why the folks at Michelin Guide Rouge awarded Del Posto 2 of their coveted stars. For the same reasons I loved Del Posto, Bruni thought that the restaurant deserved 3 stars. I think both ratings are a little generous. But, I have only been once, whereas Bruni, and hopefully the Michelin Guide, based his opinion on three or more.

I don’t know that I’d run back to Del Posto. Certainly, I would entertain re-visiting the enoteca, if I’m ever in the neighborhood again. But, of the Batali-Bastianich empire, I’d much more likely find myself at Babbo, Esca, and hopefully Lupa, where I might get to experience Chef Ladner in his more familiar elements.

*************************************************************

Because I want to avoid the appearance of shilling, I must disclose that after our dinner, we shared a plate of gelati in the Enoteca. They sent out a basket of bomboloni, gratui.

Again, you can read a more extensive review (if you can imagine such a thing) at the ulterior epicure. You can see all of the photos on on my Flickr account.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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So, heightsgtltd, how was the regular menu?

Hey Ulterior,

The regular menu was not as good as the grand tasting.

From what I remember, some of the pastas were good, and some of the roasted meats were good, but there were hits and misses in contrast to the tasting.

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The new pastry chef at Del Posto is Brooks Headley, formerly of Komi in DC, where he was putting out consistently awesome desserts. Here's hoping for more of the same in his new position.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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Headley started about a month ago I think? it was on Eater at the time.

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We arrived in advance of our reservation & each enjoyed a bar side glass of wine, perfectly matched by bartender Matthew to our palate preferences. The restaurant is very attractive but seemed spookily oversized as there were so few luncheon patrons. Our table captain and service staff were superb....if only the cuisine had matched! We shared the lobster appetizer, its meat tasty but the dish lacking any interest or luster. We opted for the 3 pasta course tasting menu. The first was al dente spaghettini w. chunks of dungese crab, scented w lemon and totally overwhelmed w. jalapeno peppers & scallions. The agnolotti, shaped closer to mini tortellini, were scrumptious. The dark, dark green [spinach] garganelli had a pleasant if understated bolognese sauce. All portions were too petite for their $28 tariff. The dessert menu was IMHO bizarre...olive oil gelato, parnsip sorbet,

celery sorbet and the like. We finally found a chocolate listing but it was described to us as an 'after dessert dessert'...4 chocolates w 4 rums. Even with our choice of a cheese plate, we departed the restaurant not stuffed...........but mostly without good memories or an intent to return.

I wonder about their future at this price point for less than exciting cuisine.

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Even with our choice of a cheese plate, we departed the restaurant not stuffed...........but mostly without good memories or an intent to return.

I wonder about their future at this price point for less than exciting cuisine.

Reports like this have been common since Del Posto opened. I don't dispute the accuracy of it (we were underwhelmed, too) but it's just one side of a restaurant that also has its fans. Given the names of the guys behind it, two Michelin stars, three Times stars, and so forth, it can count on a pretty steady stream of curiosity-seekers. It is much more popular at dinner; lunch is known to be dead in that neighborhood.

Of course, like all expensive fine-dining restaurants, Del Posto has felt the recession. But it also has the advantage of deep-pocketed owners who can afford a loss leader, as most of their other places remain insanely popular.

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I've said this seemingly endlessly, but after dining there, I just don't get the 2 star review from Michelin. I doubt it would get a single star were it in Italy; certainly a restaurant with the forgettable cooking as here (IMHO) would not garner a star in France. (Maybe they're more generous in Italy as they are in the USA?)

I went there hoping to be smitten. I left feeling as if I had been bitten.

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Had a fantastic experience last night dropping in on Del Posto for dessert at the bar area. Our party shared:

- Chocolate Ricotta TORTINO, Toasted Sicilian Pistachios & Extra Virgin Olive Oil

- Lidia's Sweet Pea SFORMATO with Local Strawberries & Strawberry Gelato

- Butterscotch SEMIFREDDO, Rhubarb Marmellata, Crumbled Sbrisalona & Milk Jam

- Torta al ROSMARINO with Warm Cherry Macedonia, Spicy Pecans & Yogurt Gelato

The Tortino and Semifreddo were good, the Sformato and Torta al Rosmarino were exceptional. The sformato burst with strawberry flavor, even this late in the season. The Torta was a finely balanced composition of sharp flavors, from the tang of the yogurt, to the savory herbaceousness of the rosemary, to the controlled sweet of the cherries. In general the pastry chef showed a deft touch at integrating savory elements into each dessert.

Service was also excellent, and the chef came out to present a couple of additional comped treats: chocolate-dipped gelato lollipops, cream-filled bombolini, and petit fours. Again, we were there only for dessert, and none of us were regulars/VIPs.

I can't speak for the savory dishes there, but on the basis of the dessert experience, I'd actually say Del Posto is underrated.


---

al wang

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