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Jul 6, 2009 03:20 PM

MSP- Tosca Review- Fantastic!

CG and I just returned from a trip to Israel, so our larder is quite low (although newly stocked with all sorts of weird Middle-Eastern spices). We decided to forgo our usual Cafe Levain Sunday night for its newer sister, Tosca.

It is helmed by the same chef who turned Levain into the gem it is today, Chef Adam VIckerman. We as such had high hopes for the chow, and were not disappointed in the least.

We started with a Flavors of Spring plate, which included some delicious pork terrine, pesto (tasted like a pea pesto, mild and delicate), some pickled broccoli stems, and some roasted grapes (which were then chilled again, a masterful touch to concentrate the flavor while leaving the texture as expected). We loved it. Almost licked the plate.

I ordered Chef's Choice (basically told the server I wanted whatever he wished to feed me) and so I had the bucatini with raw plum tomato, chili flake, garlic, and breadcrumbs (a really nice addition texturally). It was perfectly al dente. Too bad I prefer my pasta a bit more cooked. CG stole it from me happily, and scarfed it up. He had the tagliatelle- it had mushrooms and brown butter- different from what was on the website menu, but I thought it was fantastic. Chef Adam has always had a way with mushrooms- he cooks them well done, so there is a bit of tooth to them, and they are not spongy at all. Mmmmm.

On to the mains. I had a hangar steak. It came with more of those delicious mushrooms and some roasted potatoes. There was a little bit of truffle oil somewhere, but just a hint. It was perfectly cooked, medium rare, and tasted of the characteristic char that I have come to love from Chef Adam. CG had the chicken. Kadejan Farms, breast and wing, roasted to perfection yet so juicy. Came with roasted broccolini and Riverbend Farms polenta (which Chef told us was milled the day he orders it). CG said it restored his faith in restaurant chicken. He just kept marvelling at it over and over.

We were too stuffed for dessert, so I cannot comment on it. I cannot wait to go back and sample more. Hope you all get a chance to try it.

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  1. CGG, thanks for a mouth-watering review. Your comment about CG and the chicken reminds me of why I try never to order chicken out unless it is naturally raised/free range- the taste is completely different.

    1. You heard it here first- if his current trajectory holds, I predict a Beard for young Master Vickerman.

      4 Replies
      1. re: shinmn

        Ha! Give me a break. I can't believe the hype this place is getting. I could make that bucatini dish in my sleep, and the rest of the menu is so unbelievably unimaginative! I got the spring salad and it was nothing more than a bunch of greens and some radishes which had been "prepared" by simply being washed (I hope) and then placed whole on my plate - I had to ask for a knife (which had been left off the table) in order to eat them.

        James Beard award? Please. They don't just toss those things around. You honestly think the food at this place is even in the same ballpark as La Belle Vie? Or Alma, or 112 for that matter? Too funny.

        1. re: declanpadraig

          I hesitated to post as I have only been to Trattoria Tosca once so far, but it was good enough to make me want to reply.

          I did not have either the bucatini or the salad but what I did try was very good and the bucatini looked and smelled delicious going by and made me decide to have it the next time I went : ). Simple? Perhaps. Easy to make? Maybe. But I have noticed that the easiest things to make are sometimes the hardest to get just right. Roasted chicken, steaks and pasta especially come to mind.

          I think that Tosca is not trying to be anything other than what it is, a nice neighborhood (very nice neighborhood) restaurant with an Italian bent. This means not only an Italian menu but also an emphasis on local, fresh ingredients prepared simply, (relatively speaking), so that you really taste their flavors. I'm not sure what you require in a salad and as I said, I did not have either of the salads, but from your description, it seems you were meant to enjoy the crunch and green, earthy flavors of the vegetables?

          This way of cooking was perfectly embodied by the side dish of local snap peas that we had. It was "simply" a dish of snap peas and pea tendrils in brown butter with a taste of lemon. But, the peas were incredibly sweet and tender, slightly browned on the outside for a carmelly flavor while still crisp to the bite. The brown butter gave a richness to the dish that was balanced by the citrus of the lemon. If I were a pea pod, I would have been very happy to be prepared with such care.

          Also, although the menu is simple in terms of number of items (which I like), some of the dished are far from simple or unimaginative. The melon soup was complex, with many layers of flavors, from the cool tartness of the soup, to the cold sweetness of the sorbet, made even more interesting by the addition of a small sprinkle of homemade duck pancetta. Oooh, that pancetta... I hope they will incorporate it into one of their pasta dishes someday. This chilled melon soup would not have looked or tasted out of place at any of the places (which I have enjoyed) that you mentioned.

          And not to beat a hopefully dead horse, perhaps not the best phrase to use, but I was lucky enough to have the tagliatelle from the on-line menu, Tagliatelle with horseradish, pistachio, rainbow chard, local garlic scape and brown butter. I have a pretty good food imagination but I could not picture what this combination would taste like. It looked interesting and I love horseradish and pistachio... and garlic scapes and brown butter, so I ordered it and was very happy that I did. The tagliatelle was cooked to a perfect al dente, seemingly not an easy thing to do with fresh pasta. The horseradish added a subtle refreshing bite to the richness of the butter and the crunchiness of the pistachios. It was also beautifully presented, with small yellow flowers (pea?) sprinkled on top. I actually took a photo, something I have never done before, because it was so pretty.

          Well, I will now get off my exhausted horse. Sorry for the long post. I will try to attach the photo. Perhaps not the best but hopefully you will get the idea.

            1. re: MrSlippery

              No photo, but a really nice commentary about what Chef is trying (and not trying) to do, MrSlippery. He's not cooking to be a JBF winner. He's trying to take fresh seasonal local ingredients and prepare them with love and care. Plus, the guy is like 25 years old. I anticipate unbelievable growth from him over the next decade.

              I generally don't order green salads in restaurants, declanpadraig, since I can prepare them at home (I get the CSA from Harmony Valley, so get a lot of the same ingredients that restaurants do). It sounds as if you could do the same, so I wonder if you have had any blow-your-mind green salads out and about? I'd be interested in hearing about them.

      2. I went to Trattoria Tosca last week. My boyfriend and I shared the fettucine with corn brodo with Fischer Farms bacon. For entrees, I had the King Salmon with mussels, squash and more bacon and he had the ribeye with fingerling potatoes, rutabaga and figs. For me, the fettucine was the hit of the night. The pasta was freshly made and springy. The corn kernels and the brodo were so wonderfully fresh tasting, sweet and light. This went perfectly with the crispy, salty bacon pieces. I was not as enthralled with my salmon dish. The salmon was a little overcooked for my liking and the mussels seemed to be added to the plate, but nothing that really pulled the two together. However, I did appreciate the incredibly fresh summer squash. My boyfriend decidedly enjoyed his ribeye. Cooked to his specifications (medium-rare) and they somehow even had him eating the figs and rutabaga. Hats off to the chef for getting the SO to eat his veggies and fruit. Our server was enthusiac and friendly. I am excited to try this place again, particularly some of the other pasta dishes.

        1. Thanks for this great review... We still haven't gotten over there -- on the rare occasions we let ourselves spend money on a meal out, we keep going back to Levain (had a beautiful dinner there Sunday). I too am a big fan of Adam's mushrooms: somehow he gets a lot of the moisture out of them and it concentrates the flavors.

          I may follow your example and ask for chef's choice when we finally go.