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The Great Truffle Experiment #1


Basha
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So a few weeks ago i put a question out there: where can i go for a decadent truffle based meal this time of year?...Thanks to all the wonderful suggestions, I landed upon Le Latini. After showing my gratitude i also promised that i would let you all know my opinion..This may be harsh, so if you get squeemish at the sight of bloody insults...severed comments, and gory tales, then please don't read ahead...

Now I eat out often, i understand the game, heck i even work in a restaurant so i KNOW the ins and outs pretty well...The curt service began with several waiters...even the host who seated us, all coming to take various orders, leaving us confused as to who exactly we could ask of things if need be..We started with a moscato, an italian aperitif as we perused the long menu..As I had mentioned we had come for the main event..THE TRUFFLES!! Towards the back of the menu was the Menu Gastronomique which both my friend and i opted for. The menu starts with a truffle-less seafood salad served on a bed of julienned beet, carrot, and dead and wilted green beans. Meh- the scallops, shrimp and octopus were good- but i expected more from a 75$ menu.

Next was goose liver. No truffles in sight. Simple, small, oddly flavourless compared to duck foie gras (i had just never noticed the incredible differences before!)..just the right amount to keep you hungry for the next dish...Which was a bowl of tagliolini with a perfectly sunny, smiling egg cracked on top. Taking a deeeeeep breath into by bowl i noticed the complete lack of tuffle...as did mon ami..seveal minutes later, as we began to twirl the pasta around our forks, our watier arrived with a golf ball sized truffle and began to shave away. It smelled heavenly! This is what i had come for! The glistening slivers were a nice ofalctory addition, and the subtleness on the palatte definately left me craving more. Thankfully the next dish also came adorned with shavings of truffle: The rack of venison..WITH THE SAME JULIENNE SALAD as the first appetizer!! I was shocked. Yes, they had tried to disguise it with some raisins, but this my friend was indeed the same limp concoction as before. My guest turned to me and asked if they had punished us for not finishing the previous course by dumping it back onto our plates...was this a cruel game to get us to finish!

The venison was cooked nicely, although no waiter had asked how we would like it to be prepared, and so it was overcooked to my liking...Simple sliced potatoes sat humbly next to our reincarnated greens.

Feelling a little wobbly now, but still on my truffle mission, like a pig stuck with it's snout to the ground, or in my case the table, i persevered. To no avail. This is the most dissapointing part:

A sad looking cheese plate arrived. No bread, no croutons, nothing to cradle the soft and TRUFFLE LESS cheeses. C'mon now!! We have all tried a truffle laced cheese or two in our time..Why not slip one in there! By now we were ready to ask for the bill... afterall it had been all so sad...BUT WAIT!! another cake suddenly arrives (our waiter finally noticing that we are still here) An apple and raisin tart (sans truffle), a few more grappas and an espresso later I wandered into the street clutching the 620$ (incl. tax & tip) bill in my closed fists.. (wine was 185$)

Now maybe i was confused, but when i saw truffle menu...i thought it meant somebody had thought out a nice little palatte pleasing, tantalizing USEFUL menu. Not only was the service iffy, if bordering rude, but for that price i expected it to be raining truffles. I expected to be crying teardrops of truffle scented tears in gratitude.

Well, onto my next quest..Next week i will be trying BIS to see how they compare. If anyone has any other truffle tasting menus they have tried, please let me know.

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Basha, I'm sad to hear your report.

I was just at Le Latini interviewing Mr. DiMarchi the other day and he showed me some tennis ball-sized truffles that smelled intoxicating. He certainly has the goods (no restaurateur or chef in the city can match Moreno's stash), but I wonder why he's not sharing them as he should. Did you complain, and when I say complain, I mean complain nicely?

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I think that when you want to spend extra to have truffles you must read the "truffle menu" carefully - I think very few restaurants would do a menu featuring truffles from beginning to end, first because it would be overkill and none of the dishes could be too flavourful, so they wouldn't mask the truffles, and second because it's too costly. They'd have to charge a fortune. So maybe this was a case of expectations running too high? IMHO, 75 dollars would have been too low for a real truffle menu with truffles galore. I feel you got what you paid for, overall, excluding of course the limp green beans and the bad service.

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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I agree with Alexandra, $75 for a truffle menu is way too low for it to be meaningful in a degustation. The price of truffles is insane. For one dish recently at the French laundry in California there was a $60 supplement because it had truffles! The cost of the meal was already $210 if one had the other choice. For $75 I'm surprised that they didn't just use truffle oil! Of course none of this excuses the service gaffs.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Had a Truffle Menu in New York recently. $350/pp for 7 courses, 6 with truffles. All real truffles d'Alba. Was good value since pair with some nice Italian wines.

$75 is what you pay for 1 dish with 2-3g of truffles. And maybe a salad to start!

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Lesley...

Altough i admit that the 75$ price tag was very low for a truffle tasting menu...i had no qualms about paying more for an extra truffle or two..I didn't complain..i know that maybe i should have..however the belittling attitude quickly put me in a docile mood.

I just expected more....my tastes are not (too!) demanding, however i expect a certain amount of class in both service and in flair, both of which were lacking..

BTW...nice review on Aszu! I just went last night and they have added a few new items to their menu since the release of the article that are worth a try..Yummy.

Take care,

Basha Nemeskeri

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