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Explain this to me, hounds (Erbaluce)

  • g

After asking for your recommendations, went there for dinner for the fist time and was bewildered by the highs and lows in one night. It is obviously a place run with great ambition and talent, and not cheap! Appetizers- the waiter raved about the fresh sardines she has and we ordered, Well, there were only TWO small sardines for 11 dollars, and they were really fresh and done well with a lovely sauce- but they had SCALES??? Believe me, I know my sardines and can deal with bones etc, but scales? Then we split a pasta special with truffles and beets- it was lovely and done really well except that black truffles barely had any smell. Last time we had fresh black truffles was last fall at Gran Gusto and I remember that we all turned heads when the waiter entered the room with my pasta dish, it was so fragrant. Here the truffles had a nice texture but barely any aroma. Maybe I should have known better and not order them off season (30 dollars).
For main course husband had a rabbit- a gorgeous dish with so much flavor and so beautifully plated, cooked just right- he loved it. I got the veal breast, remembering the recommnedation from a fellow hound. Guys, it was inedible! The meat so dry and stringy that I could not cut it with the serrated knife they provided. And the accompanying giant beans were undercooked - a total disaster of a dish for 28 bucks!
Desert ( panna cotta) was perfecft- nice flavor, not too much gelatin, done just right. The wine they suggested was also great. And then we were offered complimentary chocolates that were just exquisite. I am not the type to send food back and did not say anything- the waiter was really nice and tried very hard to please us. Yes, and forgot to mention another thing- we got our appetizer half an hour after we got seated and then pasta another half an hour later!
Anyway, not sure what to think- I so wanted to like this place!

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  1. Sorry you had such a mixed experience; I haven't had a chance to get to Erbaluce so I can't comment specifically. And I don't mean at all to seem like a cheerleader for the spot. But personally I feel that if I am served a dish that is 'inedible," esp one for $28.00, I'm going to mention it to the waiter. He (and the kitchen) need to know if the meat is overcooked (i'm assuming that's the case, if it was dry and stringy). From everything I've heard about this place, they are really aiming high and cater to their customers --I think they'd want to know if you were served a dish you found inedible.
    And re the pasta dish --if it was lovely and done really well --is it really a deal breaker if you couldn't smell the truffles? I'm not a truffle aficionado but it seems to me that may be something that might vary depending on where they are sourced? But regardless, if the dish tasted good, that's what's most important, right?

    1 Reply
    1. re: twentyoystahs

      Yes, the aroma of truffles should hit your face like Mike Tyson at his prime.

    2. Shoot galka! Your post troubles me on a few levels. I don't want to be the constant cheerleader for this place, and I hope other recent diners will also chime in, but it's one of my favorite spots in town at the moment.

      I have found the value for money to be extraordinary .. most of the bar plates are under $10, the wines are reasonably priced, and the quality of the ingredients is so high I don't mind paying a premium for those sardines. As for the scales and the overcooked veal, I would have mentioned it to my server -- I find the service there to be great, although I prefer the bar, and James, the barkeep over the dining room.

      I had the veal the other night on a charcuterie plate and while I agree it is a bland protien, it's a great canvas for flavor, including the mustard and fermented cherries served alongside that night. The entree prep might be completely different though, so who knows? Again, if it was inedible, I would have sent it back. I hate doing that, but will do it if necessary.

      Truffles, truffles, damned inconsistent things... one year they can be head-turners that fill the room with their aroma. The next they will be subtle and simply funky on the palate. I have no way to judge the relative value of your truffle dish, but if it didn't wow you then that's a disappointment to be sure. I always hope to be bowled over by a truffle dish if I spring for the dough.

      Again, I'm sorry for your disappointing meal. I hope this is just a fluke -- maybe I've been lucky?

      5 Replies
      1. re: yumyum

        We've eaten there 4 times in the last six months and never had a sour note. Had pasta with truffle and egg about 3 weeks ago (white truffle) and the scent, taste and presentation was grand. My husband had sardines, which he adored. I had the wild boar last time, and loved it. Our friends had sea bass and the veal and both raved. we all split a panna cotta and a chocolate truffle/orange thingy and, with the exception of finding the wine list a little pricey, we were all extremely happy. I;m sorry you didn't send back the veal: this is a place, in my limited experience, that would take quite seriously the concern of a guest that something was poorly cooked. I am sorry that a place I've found so appealing disappointed you.

        1. re: teezeetoo

          I had a similar experience re: the undercooked beans at Erbaluce, as well as at other high-end restaurants. I have had three-day stomachaches twice after eating at two very nice restaurants, from undercooked beans. It's gotten to the point where I just won't order anything with beans at a fancy restaurant, which is actually hard to do sometimes.

          1. re: powella

            I'm with you: undercooking beans (both dried shell beans and fresh green/yellow beans) is a particular pet peeve of mine.

            1. re: almansa

              Whole Foods, are you listening? I avoid their take-out because often the beans, and always the rice, are undercooked. No excuse in a high-end restaurant. Beans should have a little resistance, but still be creamy.

              (Sorry to be off-topic.)

              1. re: almansa

                Ditto. I stopped eating at Petit Robert Bistro (Kenmore) after being served a "cassoulet" with undercooked beans. Which is doubly insulting since long cooked beans are the very soul of a REAL cassoulet.

        2. I'm one of those diners that has had very consistent, excellent experiences at Erbaluce, and have praised it a lot here and elsewhere.

          Even so, I have a hard time saying to people, "Give it another chance" when you've had a really uneven meal at this price level. If the place is already well-established, there aren't many excuses for that much up-and-down within a single meal.

          I hope you did or will follow up with the GM to explain your disappointments; at the very least, it may help improve the experience for other diners, and at best, they may respond in a way that makes you want to give them another shot.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. Galka, sad to say I also had an uneven experience at Erbaluce. I hadn't posted about because we went on New Year's Eve and did the special tasting menu, and given the other poster's consistent raves, I was taking my experience with a grain of salt.

            Food - our first course was a duck egg sformato with white truffles. It was amazing. The truffles weren't very distinct, despite the server's gushing, but the dish was so good, I didn't think too much about it. It seemed like a promising start . The next course was a blue hubbard squah soup with charred matsutaki and cauliflower mushrooms. The soup was solid, but the matsutaki was too thick and not cooked properly, making it very rubbery. Next, came lentils with cotechino sausage and black truffles. This dish was okay. No flavor from the truffles, but the lentils had good flavor and were cooked well. The next dish was the disappointment of the night, the point at which we figured out this was not going to live up to our expectations. It was a sole fillet with crab and shrimp and bruleed with a lobster coral maionese (as spelled on the menu handout I'm using for this post). Incredibly bland and tasteless. I'm not sure how all those wonderful ingredients end up tasting like, well, nothing, but that was the taste - a mouth full of sodden white fish. The next dish was goose, stuffed with roasted chestnuts and cranberries with a spicy cherry mostarda. This was better, but not exciting or interesting. Finally, a chocolate budino with amaretto biscotti and fernet marinated strawberries. This was much better than the previous few dishes.

            Wine - all dishes were paired with wines, many of which I had never heard of. I think this aspect of the dinner was the best portion.

            Service - I was incredibly disappointed in the service, but it was a very busy evening. That being said, as nice as our server was, she consistently slopped water over the table, no apologies, no cleaning up, and left slopped out ice cubes to melt in the center of our table.

            Other - the chef came out to describe several of our courses and he was wonderful. Very charming and passionate about what he was doing. I had raved after the first course and had strong positives after the second, and this is my own failing, but I just couldn't bring myself to express my disappointment in the subsequent courses. I was just rooting for him so much. Finally, I know it happens, but my husband pulled a long black hair out of one of his courses.

            I really loved the space and was really pulling for the chef. Execution just wasn't with the restaurant the night. They did seem extremely stressed in the kitchen (as I noticed when I went back to use the restroom). I'm willing and wanting to give them another chance, but at that price point I'm not sure my husband will be easy to convince. On some level, I'm glad you also had an uneven experience so that I know it wasn't just me failing to see what so many others have. I hope to get back on a less stressful evening and try to find it.

            1. When we were there, it seemed for that everyone who ordered a truffle dish, the chef actually came out and grated the truffles himself tableside. Looked like he kept the truffle in some sort of special container? If the chef did not do this when you were there, maybe he was not in the kitchen that night or something else was going on?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                Could have also been a different dish. In any place I've worked, presentations that require someone from the kitchen going out to a table are for very limited runs during the slow season. Too tough to give up the 30 seconds of man-power during a rush otherwise. Could be wrong though.

                1. re: muscles_marinara

                  Although a big part of Draghi's thing is that he passes through the dining room a lot, even if he's not doing a tableside presentation like that.

                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    That's cool. It's always nice to have a face to put the food to.

                    1. re: muscles_marinara

                      He's been super engaging when I've been there -- talking about his food-sourcing challenges, describing the method for producing the otherworldly tuna pate, laffing about how yummy eel is. I really like the guy, and he is an important part of the Erbaluce experience.

              2. We moved a digression on sending food back to the Not About Food board, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683086

                1. Sorry to hear about your experience. I think I may have been one of the Hounds waxing ecstatic about the sardines and braised veal breast.

                  I stand by my experience that night and look forward to having another meal there soon. On the other hand, a good friend not on this Board, had a smiliar experience to yours on New Year's Eve.

                  Time will tell. I hope they can iron out some of the discrepencies.