Yet more Lupa praise
- Steven Stern May 2, 2000 06:20 PM
Like this place needs any more attention, but one thing I wanted to mention. The pasta with spicy cauliflower. Some kind of short tubular pasta I've never heard of. Almost mushy cauliflower, lots of hot pepper. Big crunchy bread crumbs, a branch of rosemary, subliminal strips of some kind of green (chard? escarole?) weaved through. Some kind of soft cheese holding it all together, possibly, just a little. That's it. It was one of the most un-restaurant-like things I've ever had in a restaurant; just like what I would cook for myself, but much, much better. Totally haimish and totally exciting, it was the best single plate of food I've had in a while.
Everything else was great too--sardines, prosciutto, oxtail, saltimbocca. Desserts particularly: mascarpone gelato with sour cherries, and licorice panna cotta with grappa--subtle and groovy. It was all about the cauliflower for me, though.
Monday evening, early (6-ish): no waiting at all.
I felt the same way about their bigoli con cecchi - perfectly al dente buckwheat pasta with tender-not-mushy chickpeas in a gossamer, spicy sauce that invisibly coated each strand with a hit of Parmesan. It looks like a bowl of naked pasta with a few lonely chickpeas scattered about, but it might have been the best plate of pasta I've ever had. So humble, and so sublime.
re: Jessica Shatan
Okay, I'm gonna backpedal a BIT on the saltimbocca. Yeah, it was kinda tough, but I think it had its own aesthetic. As compared to other versions I've tried, it was a particularly macho piece of veal, almost seared--obviously the high heat made the meat bind up and toughen. But I think it worked, especially with the creamy fava beans it was served with. I recently had saltimbocca at Al di La made with pork instead of veal that was much more classic in style--rich and kinda decadent; the Lupa version was something else entirely. I think they know what they're doing.
That said, I will admit: a) I actually just had a few bites of my girlfriend's order; b) it definitely was my least favorite thing, and not something I waould order again; c) I was, perhaps, a tad cauliflower-blinded.
Now if anybody said anything against the licorice pannacotta, I'd really come out swinging.
re: Steven Stern
Being said girlfriend whose order of saltimboca at Lupa is being discussed, I thought I might chime in. Granted, I was a bit dazed from the cauliflower, I'll admit, but I've got to say, I actually preferred the saltimboca to my dining companion's oxtail. I've not had much saltimboca experience apart from a few pilfered bites at Al Di La, so I've not much to compare it to. However, it evoked for me the inexplicable and savory goodness of my mother's breaded (and inevitably burnt) porkchops of yore, and I was rather delighted, thank you.
Subsequent to the Lupa, I've had several half-waking dreams of laying in a fluffy bed of their heavenly panna cotta.
But that's just my problem.
I love Lupa and it pains me to say this but I have to agree with Arthur about the saltimboca. I had it once and I also found it rather tough and unimpressive compared to most of their other dishes. One other thing, I've had the baccala(sic) twice. The first time was excellent but they changed the recipe and although I loved the ingredients, especially the cherry tomatoes in the second recipe I found it to be far more salty than the first time. On balance however, I still love the place, especially when you take price into consideration.
Sounds like one of the dishes Mario's made on his show: slow simmered cauliflower, plus the cauliflower greens - perhaps the green floating around? It gets a kick from red pepper flakes. So many of his contorni can be adapted to work with pasta: I made the one hour calimari and popped it over squid ink fettucini. Fantastic.
Not to rain on anybody's parade but Lupa didn't knock my socks off. I got some sort of fish dish (sorry, it was a few months ago and I can't recall precisely) which was described by our waiter as "spicy." It turned out to be doused in cracked pepper. I love spicy food, but in this you couldn't taste fish at all, just pepper, and to me it was inedible. The waiter was not so hot (we saw other waiters quoting specials we weren't told of and being more helpful--guess we didn't look like high rollers) and when I asked about the dish said something to the effect of, "well I TOLD you it was spicy." Other dishes were OK but didn't send me swooning, which, after the Mario Mario Mario build-up, is a bit disappointing. I felt the same about Po.