Amalfi in Rockland
- Cassoulet May 22, 2008 06:46 AM
Has anyone eaten at Amalfi since they moved? Our anniversary is coming up and I was wondering if that might be a good place to go for dinner.
I haven't heard anything yet about the quality of the food, although the place has come up in conversation several times with some of the real foodies in town. I guess everyone wants to wait a week or three until they settle in.
I did hear that they changed the menu around completely. It seems much heavier on the seafood and meat, it's not just Mediterranean fusion, but now has some Asian influences as well. I hope they can pull it off successfully. I may go there tonight or tomorrow, if so I will report back.
One interesting thing is that as of June 1st they will be open 7 days a weeks for lunch and dinner until the winter, when they go back to being closed on Sundays.
We decided to take a chance, and I'm sorry to say that I was kind of underwhelmed. I had heard such great things about them in their previous location that my expectations were pretty high, and my meal was just ok. It wasn't bad, by any means, it just wasn't anything special. The crab-cakes tasted good but were soggy and my Amalfi Fish Stew didn't have a lot of flavor.
The ambiance didn't do much for me either - not much personality. I'd describe the look as Marriott-chic. My opinion probably wasn't helped by the fact that we were seated at opposite ends of a long skinny table in what felt like a corridor, despite having made reservations the day before.
In Amalfi's defense, it was extremely busy and they have recently multiplied in size. It's very possible that it was just an off night and the food will go back to being as good as what the chowhounds had been raving about.
Personally I never thought the food was that good at the old location. Many people did, but I thought they only had a few good dishes and most were downright boring or mediocre. I think that it is hard to bring off a good fusion menu. An example is their moussaka which was one of their most popular dishes. What came to the table was such a confused dish, a deconstructed version of moussaka just poured onto a plate, tasting like it was mixed with lasagna, that it left me confused and unsatisfied, with a mouth full of sweetness and nutmeg.
When I looked at the new menu online, with it even more mixed up, I wondered how it would be, and decided not to go last night. Then I saw the fateful words "Kobe Beef Burger." It's a pet peeve of mine about truth in advertising and on menus. There is no way that they serve real Kobe beef burgers. Real Kobe beef isn't readily available and costs a fortune.They have American or Australian "Kobe style" beef burgers, but even that term annoys me for lack of truth. I much prefer using the correct term of American Wagyu or Australian Wagyu, although none of that is pure Wagyu breeds, but crossbreeds with Angus, etc.
Also any place that feels the need to have a "Kobe" burger is being a bit pretentious and false. Wagyu beef, even crossbreeds, doesn't make tasty burgers. It's even less flavorful than a filet mignon burger would be. What is served under that name is made with the worst cuts of poor grade Wagyu crossbreed. It has to be to make a decent, even tasty burger. Then places charge $17 or $25 for it and it isn't even as tasty as a burger made with regular beef. Wagyu just isn't suited for burgers, or steaks either. Wagyu is best served cut in 1" pieces that are seared on the outside and raw/rare inside, with 2-3 ounces as a max portion size. It is so rich, mild, and buttery that any more than that and it is too much to eat and enjoy.
We went to Amalfi's at their original location a few years ago: extremely pretentious with mediocre yet expensive food. They couldn't even bring themselves to provide salt and pepper on the tables. You had to ask for it, and it needed it. We said we'd never go back, and we haven't.
Went there last night. WOW what a change! Here's what has stayed the same: the menu. What's changed: everything is five times bigger! There must be 35 tables, 10 people in the kitchen, 25 stools around the bar and 3 hostesses. It's a huge change from the quaint little Rockland eatery — they have their eyes set on big things. Knowing how hard it is to put all that together, I'd say they did a fabulous job because the place was busy and the food was OK. They still had a bit of new-restaurant-blues — the food was only OK and the waitstaff a little uneven — but the owners put a ton of effort into making this change. I'd bet they quickly settle down.
Unfortunately the menu (IMHO) isn't up to their aspirations; As I mentioned above, it's essentially the same food. They really need to kick up the menu to the level of 555, Primo or Natalie's if they're to continually fill all those seats.
Best of luck to them.
I went last night, too. It is a big place, maybe a bit too open in the main dining room, but the owners said they're going to be dividing it up a bit to make the space a little more intimate. The food quality is pretty much what it was at the old space--good, not great--but the best thing about the new Amalfi is that there is now a place to get very good food on the water in Rockland, which was not really available before. The other good thing about Amalfi is the very reasonable wine mark-up and the variety of the wines offered, both by the glass and bottle, and the range of prices. I especially appreciate that after also having dined at Francine (whose food I love) this past week and, once again, being sorely disappointed by both the poor selection and the exhorbitant pricing. I hear this complaint often about Francine and cannot understand why they don't revise their list a bit. I and maybe others would go there more often. Then again, they seem to be busy all the time anyway, and maybe Camdenites are happy to pay those prices. But, I digress, we were talking about Amalfi...
I loved the old Amalfi's but have to say even though it is nicely decorated, I was dissapointed in the food when I went. I have been twice to the new location and was
not happy either time.