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AMIS ON A MONDAY NIGHT

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We cancelled our Vetri rez for the evening; somehow the more casual menu was more appealing. Wanted to love it, but couldn't help but be disappointed, despite pleasant service, and obvious caring of management to meet and greet.

The most disappointing dish was the canneloni. Veal filling t was minced too fine, taste of the sauce overpowered the delicate pasta and filling; portion size much too small; this was more of an appetizer than a main dish in terms of portion size. I was able to give constructive criticism for the Chef, which was received appreciatively.

My seafood grill was tasty, but very sparse, for $22. Two shrimp, some skate, a tiny bit of swordfish and one itty bitty squid; two tiny squares of polenta. Stuffed clam appetizer again, tasty, but not much clam evident, even though the flavor was there. The artichokes, Jewish style were beautiful: deep fried, but no marinade, so flavor was lowkey. ($10 for a pretty appetizer)

Hubby;s polenta broiled with brown butter had way too much butter. Desserts were the high point: hubby chose pear tart; mine the Reserva Cheese plate, not on the regular menu. $12 for three tasty smidges of cheese: winner of the night, tres leche soft cheese, with milk from cow, goat and sheep. Outstanding! I'm going to look for that one at Di Bruno's.

DEcor is high industrial modern; informal, huge bar, high noise level as evening progressed; fun he/she restrooms; attractive all in all. Parking situation not easy on the street. Nice vibe; mostly male customers; expense account perhaps?

As I said, I really wanted to love this, perhaps to find a place to eat at regularly, but it missed the mark for me, despite a lot of thought that went into the planning.

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  1. Bashful, I really appreciate the review. I was there this past Thursday night and, fortunately, had an experience that did not mirror yours at least in terms of our reaction to the food.

    I think we both agree that the service was a strong point (although our waiter kept repeating his same "catch phrase" question about our enjoyment of each course). I liked the wine by the carafe option, which we started with, and also thought their list of glasses was well rounded and more than interesting. We each had a glass of the Primitivo after a carafe of the house red, which went well with our later courses. On to the food!

    We enjoyed the gratis house made focaccia with caramelized onions, though would have preferred it served a little warm. Some olive oil on the table to accompany would have also been a nice touch but it was still pretty tasty on its own, the kind of thing where you could eat a whole loaf if you weren't careful (or are just generally gluttunous like myself)

    For the first course, we split the bruschetta with whipped ricotta and black pepper and the octopus salad with potatoes and olives. The bruschetta was a real winner for me, primarily because I love the taste and texture of whipped quality ricotta. I personally would have liked a bit more black pepper and there was a touch too much oil drizzled over the ricotta (this seems to be a theme). The bread, however, was perfectly grilled with good olive oil drizzled over and a quick rub of garlic. The octupus was the low-point of the meal. Although the texture on the octupus was meltingly tender, the potatoes were not crisped at all which made the overall dish kind of mushy. I also thought the olives overwhelmed the other components and, again, the salad was drenched in olive oil which was not a pleasant addition.

    Things got better from there. For our second course we shared the meatballs with tomato potato and the gnocci with oxtail ragu. The meatballs, which I understand are prepared by Vetri's father, were everything the little morsels should be. Robustly meaty with a firm but giving texture and a rich tomato sauce. The accompanying tomato potatoes almost reminded me of the Spanish pan con tomate, with the pulp of the tomatoes clinging to the potatoes.

    The gnocchi were also delicious. Served in a shallow oval dish, they were layered at the bottom with the ragu poured on top and a layer of baked cheese. The ragu was rich and just the right amount of salty (I could have eaten it by the spoonful) and I am a sucker for cheese just on the edge of browned. I could see how some would be disappointed with the gnocchi themselves. Though light as a feather, the fact that they were layered at the bottom made it hard to discern where one gnocchi ended and the next began. As such, it was difficult to grab a single nugget. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed the dish. As an aside, I thought the course size was appropriate as the pastas are really intended as primis. If I was going to order a pasta an an entree, I would likely load up during the appetizer course. Bashful, I do think your waiter should have apprised you of the size of the pasta courses when ordering to better steer your meal.

    ANYWAY, for our final course we split the mixed seafood grill. Again, I did not have a problem with the size of the dish, which consisted of two shell-on shrimp, a scallop, a small piece of skate (probably a third of a wing), a small piece of swordfish, and a piece of calamari (tenticles and body). Everything was simply grilled, but perfectly seasoned and the grilled polenta served a nice vehicle for mopping up the juices that accumulated on the plate. The scallop was a little overcooked, but otherwise I thought it was a great expression of fresh, high-quality seafood. In this dish, I really think the oil did its job, elevating the naturally sweet flavor of the fish.

    For dessert, we split the belgian waffle with chocolate, nutella, and ricotta semifredo. The only word I can use for this dessert is "obscene." There was something inherenlty guilt-producing by eating this thing; it felt weirdly self-indulgent if that makes sense. As it was the wife's birthday, they brought another scoop of semifredo with a candle in it. I didn't even remember telling them it was her birthday when I made the reservation a few weeks ago, so it was a nice touch.

    Overall, we will go back sooner than later. I loved the casual vibe (complete with a nice selection of classic rock blaring int he background) and look forward to getting into the well-crafted beer list. I think a few dishes need more fine tuning (and less oil), but with such reasonable prices for the quality of food, I left a happy boy.

    1. good review, but i wanted to comment on one of your statements. artichokes alla giudia are not served with a marinade, and even in rome they are an expensive app (except when in season, which they are not).

      9 Replies
      1. re: mazza3

        I adored the artichokes, they reminded me of artichokes I've had in Rome and sadly never manage to pull off at home.

        1. re: Bigley9

          On the artichoke riff, I had enjoyed what I thought was the same 'name' for Roman-Jewish origin artichokes at Salerno; the flavor was completely different, with garlicky oil, and that version was not fried. The Amis version was prettier, but I prefered the taste of the Salerno version.

          1. re: Bashful3

            I'm excited to try the restaurant. My husband and I went last Friday night and we had reservations. The place was completely packed and they were going to make us wait an extra 30 minutes for our table. Normally, I wouldn't care but my husband and I were starving and the bar area was incredibly packed. I just wasn't in the mood to scream to the bartender for my $13 cocktail and then try to find some room where I wasn't going to get my drink knocked over. I was also peeved that everyone sitting at the bar was eating food. It's tough some times to get a bar seat since now people seem to skip the reservation route and just get food at the bar. I do enjoy eating at the bar when I'm by myself or if its early in the night but I think it's kind of rude when it's the heat of the dinner rush and people who are just looking for a cocktail can't even get close to the bar. Just my thoughts...

            I think I need to go earlier and on a Mon or Tuesday night. I will report back when I finally eat at Amis.

            1. re: phillyjules

              We went on a Wed night and got a seat at the bar and were seated 20 mins early at our table (we arrived early to get the feelof the place).

              1. re: Bigley9

                The layout of the place is quite conducive to sitting at the bar. There was even a bar-like area facing the open kitchen that would have been fun.

                One thing I've learned is to ask about portion size: my hubby and I expected the canneloni to be a dinner-sized portion, not a tiny appetizer.

                Bashful3

                1. re: Bashful3

                  Re: Cannelloni portion size--You can't have it both ways. If you want Amis to be authentic, then the pasta portions will be "small", because in Italy pasta is never a main course, it's the course before the meat course.

                  1. re: drjane

                    There would be nothing wrong with the portion size if it were priced appropriately. I don't know whether you've had the cannelloni or not, but I also found it much smaller than I would have expected for the price and the ingredients involved.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      >There would be nothing wrong with the portion size if it were priced appropriately.

                      Well, if we're comparing with eating in Italy, on my most recent trip to Rome most pastas were in the 8-12 Euro range, depending on the ingredients. Which given the exchange rate at the time was about $12-18 US...so pretty much on par with Amis...

                      I will say that the Strozzapreti with Clam Sauce was size-wise more generous...but also $18 vs. the $14 for other pasta dishes at Amis, and easily a main-dish portion.

        2. re: mazza3

          Agreed w/mazza. I binged on artichokes alla giudia in Rome just this past fall; sadly it was the one dish at Amis that didn't match up to my hopes (I found it too greasy and not as delicately/"cleanly fried" tasting as what I enjoyed in Rome). And in Rome I never had them "marinated", just simply served with lemon wedges if anything, or perhaps a flat bread to spread the wonderful artichoke meat onto.

          That said I loved the veal canneloni. Yes, it was a small portion but very rich and the porcini sauce had me swooning. It was a smaller portion than the clam pasta my SO had (but which was also $4 more).

          Anyway, loved the place when I went a couple weeks ago; honestly the artichokes were the only dish that didn't hit the spot when I went. It's not cheap, but getting a nice mixture of plates (we did 4 starters, 2 pastas, 1 order of the seafood grill and 2 desserts) it was more than plentiful and a great trip back for the heart and stomach to our days in Italy...We made a point of consulting our waitress on whether we were over/under ordering for a full meal and she didn't steer us wrong, except we probably would have been fine sharing 1 dessert--except they were so good!)

        3. I dream of the Frito Misto. It's on the salty side, but so damn good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: deipnophilly

            We ate at Amis Saturday night. Loved the food - among other things, had the snails
            bruschetta, Sal's meatballs, bucatini, gnocchi, tiramisu, great bottle of super tuscan.
            However, the NOISE!! - wow, really hard to have any conversation.
            Also wasn't crazy about the "industrial chic" decor, as it seems not to fit with the
            very authentic Roman Italian cuisine - and all that metal only makes the noise issue
            worse.
            Would we go back? for the food, yes, but probably on a weeknight.

            1. re: jmk38

              I didn't have a problem with the noise when I was there, but then again I went pretty early in the night on a Saturday (which tends to be my preference with ultra-trendy/popular places anyway.) Since my SO and I are both classic rocks fans we enjoyed the music a lot and didn't have any problem with conversation across our table.