Gran Gusto, Central Kitchen, Salts
I couldn't go on vacation last week so instead I treated myself to restaurants I've been meaning to try.
Wednesday night I went to Gran Gusto based on the glowing reviews on CH. We started off with grilled calamari (lemony light and delicious). I had the margherita pizza and my husband had the lobster fra diavolo. I LOVED the pizza. The buffalo mozzarella really makes it. I also had a slice of ricotta pie for dessert. Overall the food was flavorful, satisfying and fresh. I thought the portions were the perfect size. We cleaned our plates but didn't feel sluggish afterwards. The space was warm and inviting and the service was friendly and welcoming.
Thursday night we went to Central Kitchen. I was pleased with the food (steak frites and braised veal) although I thought the watercress accompanying the steak was too difficult to eat. I will give CK another chance given the proximity to my house but I have to admit I found it disappointing. The hostess was haughty for no reason what so ever and the wait staff was a little absent minded and aloof (i.e. forgotten drinks and mixed up dessert orders). IMO it was a little bit pricey for what your getting.
Friday night in the snow storm we went to Salts. It was truly excellent. My sister-in-law and mom started with the petit beet salad, dad and brother had veal sweetbreads, husband had chestnut and celery root soup and I had the braised rabbit with prune stuffed "periogis" and seared foie gras. This first course was outstanding and I am still dreaming about it. The periogis were similar in flavor to the prune stuffed gnocchi at No.9 Park if you've ever had that. While all the main courses were all great, the star was really the stuffed duck for two which my brother and his wife ordered. It was a wonderful experience having the whole duck presented and carved at the table. For dessert I had the stout gingerbread with candied kumquats with "stout foam" which was really just the head off a Sam Smith Oatmeal stout. Kind of weird but you know what? It worked. My husband had the chocolate Earl Grey truffle with bergamot ice cream and he, as a chocolate lover, declared it "the best dessert he's ever had". This restaurant was really cozy and unpretentious and the staff was so friendly. I appreciated that when I called for a reservation that the hostess was welcoming and down to earth. It was a refreshing change from the attitude I received at CK the night before like they were doing me some kind of special favor.
I can't wait to go back to Salts again. I want to try the tasting menu but FYI, the whole table needs to do it.
Salts has become one of my favorite special occasion restaurants anywhere in town; nine times out of ten I'd honestly rather go there than L'Espalier or Clio (although Craigie Street is a force to be reckoned with...). My dessert experiences definitely mirror yours; it's one of the few places in town where I couldn't fathom leaving without a dessert course. I've loved my experiences with their tasting menu, but I'd suggest you hold off until the summer, when much of the produce will come from their own farm a few hours to the north.
Thanks for the tip about the tasting menu. I think my paycheck will force me to wait until summer so that works out. I haven't been to Craigie Street in about a year but I remember feeling the same pitter patter in my heart when I went there. As to which one is "better" I just don't know.
Mrs. and I went to Salts for Valentine's dinner. Like finlero, it is one of our special places. Though I am not attracted to Prix Fixe menus, this one was just fine as it appeared to be just a selection of the usual menu items. Food, service, and atmosphere were all totally enjoyable. Our next visit will be for the duck-for-two.