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One Ryan Alley, Rochester, NY

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Special_K Aug 24, 2008 09:04 AM

Last night, I had dinner for the second time at One Ryan Alley. And for the second time, I left happy.

To start, I had a half dozen oysters on the half shell (served with a mignonette) that were completely gorgeous. One of my dining partners had a pretty little Crab Louis salad--fresh, not overworked, and with a thoroughly welcome bacon note. He then had a really nice sea bass special over an oniony, mushroomy risotto--relatively simple but very flavorful treatments of both--and another friend and I split the pizza du jour. It was billed as Hawaiian, and I expected total mediocrity. It turned out to be really delicious, with bright flavors of mango and cilantro, a smear of spicy tomato sauce with sweet chilis, generous shreds of prosciutto, and a perfectly thin, perfectly crisped crust.

Dessert was a bit of a letdown--much as I enjoy saying "chocolate snowball," it translated into a kind of meh chocolate cake covered with buttercream and coconut and accompanied by (admittedly delicious) vanilla ice cream and some berries. I was curious about the vanilla panna cotta, and will probably try that next time.

At my first visit shortly after One opened--I guess about a year ago?--I had the osso buco, which at the time I found revelatory. I also had a really outstanding chocolate lava cake with spicy notes of cardamom and masala that took it into a completely different class. However, the service and the pacing at that visit were both so off that I hadn't gone back for dinner since. At this visit, nearly a year into the restaurant's existence, I was much happier with the elements outside my plate. The drinks were strong, the service solicitous, the pacing just right, the lighting flattering, and the bathroom tile intriguing. In general, it's hard to argue with the design of the place--it's bold and dramatic without being gaudy, even though it works better as a restaurant than as a bar.

In general, I'm pretty skeptical of most high-end food in this city--especially in the Alexander-and-East neighborhood. But One takes its food very seriously, and from now on, I will, too.

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