RW: Taranta does it right
Three friends and I had dinner at Taranta last night before seeing Snakes on a Plane (haven't laughed that much in a theater in a long time). It was really a great experience, I think they really make the best of the whole Restaurant Week thing, because based on my meal last night I can say that I will definitely be back for a full priced meal.
Taranta has three floors and we were seated on the third, near the window, which was cool. I like how they seperate different groups between the floors, it was clear that it was mostly couples on the first two floors, which felt much more intimate and even had a guitarist, while the third floor, where the groups were, was a bit noiser but fun. Even though I wasn't there on a date, I could appreciate that those who were could have a more intimate dining experience, while the groups upstairs could be a little louder.
Chef Duarte greeted us at the top of the stairs and seated us, and was chatting with diners all night. He even went so far as to take our orders when he came over to ask if we had any questions about the menu - though he had to come back and write them down - great chef, but he's not a waiter. :) Anyway, it made us feel very welcome. Our server suggested an Argentian wine they seemed to be pushing last night whose name escapes me right now, which she claimed would pair well with most of the things on the menu, and I can say that it certainly did with the dishes I chose. A little bit of a spicy finish which complemented the Peruvian/Italian flavors nicely. We liked it so much we ended up ordering a second bottle.
For an app I had the gazpacho, which was nice and spicy with some watermelon and cucumbers that complemented the spiciness very well, but after tasting my friend's mussels, I kind of wished I'd gotten those. For dinner I had the cassava gnocchi with lamb, which was fabulous. Admittedly, I am a gnocchi fiend, so I might be a bit biased. Friends seemed pleased with the Tilapia, though I tried a bit, and was glad I got my gnocchi, though I did like the fried? chickpeas that came with the tilapia. Didn't get a chance to try my other friend's steak, so I'm guesing it was pretty great since she didn't seem to want to share! Had a hard time deciding between the desserts, a cheesecake and a hazelnut mouse with dulce de leche - caramel and cheesecake are my two loves, so it was a hard choice! I went with the cheesecake for dessert, and after tasting a friend's mousse, I think I made the right choice on that one too. Cheesecake was topped with fresh papaya and a raspberry.
So overall the food was great, but I think the thing that made it a really fantastic night was the service. I was a bit worried we'd be rushed since it was a Friday during RW, and I haven't always had the best service during RW, but that wasn't the case at all. Our server was attentive and knowledgeable, but we never felt rushed, we definitely took our time with dessert, and our server even made a point of saying there was no hurry at all when she brought the check. I'd have no problem paying full price there another time.
Taranta is still doing it right. Neither of my two DCs had ever been, and both said they would surely return (we'll see) after last night's meal. We tried almost everything on the menu -- the mussels I had were a teeny bit gritty but the pancetta in the delicious broth made up for it. Arugula salad was an arugula salad. The duck tamale was the winner of our starters -- small but mighty. Then it was on to mains. The ubiquitous salmon was nicely cooked and served over a disc of risotto cake. It was fine. Better still was my cassoulet of lamb -- a big old shank falling off the bone served over a flavorful mixture of potatoes and quinoa. Wish there had been some kind of gremolata/counterpoint to brighten it up a bit but that's a minor nit. Best of all was the chicken dish -- delectable roasted chicken topped with an olive butter with polenta. Really yummy.
Service was great -- our waiter Nadir even brought one friend a comp half glass of the wine she had been drinking when she wavered over ordering another. That was above and beyond. Duarte was there, in the kitchen cooking in an impossibly thick Peruvian sweater (he said he's always cold). He wasn't as effusively charming as last time, sort of seemed exhausted, but he did walk around and greet the tables. Desserts were good, a hazelnut mousse thing and a limoncello flute. Totally worth the schlepp into the N. End, especially with the cheapo parking ($3 for 3 hours) at the parcel 7 lot. I'm really glad I went back to Taranta for RW, to support their very good execution of what can be a grueling week or two.
I love hearing positive reviews of Taranta. It is by far one of my favorites in the North End. The service is always phenomenal and the food is consistently excellent. The first time I ate there was on a whim and absolutely loved it! I only wish I could get there more frequently.
I dined at Taranta last night for Restaurant Week. My boyfriend and another close friend accompanied us. We were seated promptly at a side table on the second floor. Our server was Kimberly. She was excellent. We each ordered the exact same thing (mussels---absolutely to DIE for), and the Lamb Cassoulet (the lamb was tasty but the bean mixture was undersalted/underseasoned). We ordered the red wine of the day (Tempranillo) It was lovely, albeit pricey, @ $38 for a 2007 vintage. I skipped dessert but my dining mates loved theirs (Limoncello flute/ Hazelnut torte). Kimberly was attentive, informative and not the least bit smothering. She also makes a "mean" Pisco Sour (my boyfriend is from Lima--so this was THE test!) The assistants were also great, promptly clearing away any dirty dishes. We'll be back!!
I also had a wonderful dinner at Taranta. I had the mussels followed by the lamb ragu gnocchi and hazlenet mousse cake. Kimberly was an excellent server. the red wine she recommended, was great. It was an argentinian wine called Dona Paula and it was a syrah/malbec blend.
A few quibbles. I thought the sauce to the mussels was outstanding. It was complex and flavorful. My whole mouth came alive with a spicy flavor. However, the mussels were not only slighty overcooked, they were lukewarm. Also, I loved the lamb ragu, but I thought the gnocchi needed more salt. Small quibbles compared to the flavors involved with both dishes.
I tried both desserts - the cheesecake and the mousse. Neither did it for me. The cheesecake was lukewarm and heavy. The hazelnut mousse was not hazelnutty or chocolatty enough for me.
But, I think Taranta came forth with an excellent RW menu as well as a high level of service. I can't wait to go back to try them for a non-RW meal.
Nice review Jessicar - so nice that I don't have to write a long post about our great time at Taranta last night also! We were the noisy but fun-loving group in the middle of the room, also on the third floor. Taranta is the only restaurant that I go to RW every year. I agree - service was excellent as always. Kimberly is always professional and knowledgeable - she answered all our questions, chose our wines , and took care of us with patience and a smile. I started with the mussels, which I've had before - I love the Marsala in the broth. I tried my husband's Caesar salad made with Aji Amarillo - I think I liked that even better! Fresh greens, the perfect amount of dressing, a nice heat to it, and topped by a white anchovy. And my skirt steak - wow, that was excellent. A VERY generous portion, cooked perfectly juicy. I actually was full and gave my dessert to the tablemates, now I wish I had at least tried it. But then StriperGuy ALWAYS gets me to drink grappa, so that was my dessert. And as mentioned, to top it all off - live music with a friendly guitarist, and the chef taking the time to visit the tables. A great meal and a fun time! Highly recommend Taranta - I really should eat here more often.
I loved our dinner last night. The room is gorgeous, with views of the Customs House clock through the windows. It was nice and cool, despite being on the top floor, because there is no open kitchen on that level.
Chef Duarte was delightful, talking to us a bit about Peruvian cuisine. We talked about Machu Picchu, the restaurant in Union Square, and he said how tough it is to get fresh Peruvian products. Just a lot of fun gabbing with the guy. He obviously cares a lot about the food and his customers.
Kimberly steered us toward two reasonable wine choices, a white and a red that I cannot recall now. Hic. She was great all night -- suggesting that we have a few of each dessert to finish up.
My mussels were slightly overcooked, a small quibble since the broth was so delicious. I mopped it up with hunks of the very good bread we were served. Ceasar was almost as good as my own -- tangy and a little spicy. And the gnocchi with lamb ragu was great. Not as heavy as I feared, and anything with lamb in it appeals to me immediately. K told me it's a signature dish, as is the skirt steak which was delicioius. I love skirt because of the chewy beefiness, and this was cooked perfectly medium rare, on the rare side. I could have happily had that instead. I don't think anyone in our party ordered the tilapia. I was stuffed too and only had a bite of the dessert and managed to avoid the grappa. Thanks be to god. It always always gives me a killer headache and luckily this time I remembered that *before* I drank it.
I've never been to Taranta before and I wanted to try it during RW since I've heard positive things in the past. They really handle it well -- we were never rushed and I feel the food and wine was a good value. Having a present and charming chef and excellent service was the icing on the cake. I'll be going back to Taranta soon.