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Maialino Review

Please find photographs of the food here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2011/10/m...

.... We started with one of the finest bar snacks I think the city has to offer: grilled chicken heart on rosemary skewers. These were both simple and amazing. Slices of heart were beautifully seasoned with just a hint of heat and cooked very rare -- their perfect freshness stood up to this kind of preparation -- resulting in morsels that were both very tender and chewy in that distinctly heart-y sort of way. The flavors popped, especially with a light squeeze of lemon.

An antipasti of polpo e patate / octopus, potatoes, celery & lemon. lemony was also very nicely made, though served a touch too cold. This version was well balanced and not overly acidic, though lemon flavors were assertive. Octopus was tender, maybe just a bit overboiled in parts. Thin slices of celery added a nice crunch and textural contrast to the soft polpo and potatoes.

We also ordered a starter off the contorni menu, the topinambur / roasted sunchokes & Sicilian almonds. This was another simple, but glorious, dish. Sunchokes were a bit too oily for health, but definitely not too oily for deliciousness, and had been roasted until sweet and fragrant. Almonds were well roasted, not at all soft from contact with the moisture in the dish, and highlighted the nuttiness inherent in the sunchoke.

My dining companion ordered the garganelli with braised rabbit, green olives & rosemary as his main course. He loved the texture of the pasta, which he said was fresh and had been cooked to a perfect al dente. The sauce was very rich and flavorful, studded with whole nodes of sweet garlic, rustically pitted olives (apparently done by hand rather than using a pitter). I've read some complaints about the portion sizes on sites like menupages.com. Even without both a primi and secondi, my dining companion, a moderately hearty eater, found this course very filling because of its richness.

My main was the zuppa d’arzilla / seared skate wing & romanesco soup, which included delicate, flakey pieces of skate in a tomato-y broth, served over romanesco cauliflower and tomatoes. The soup, a classic, Roman dish beloved as a Friday meal among observant Catholics, was a tad too salty. I didn't notice the intense salinity at first, but it caught up to me by the time I finished. Skate was very fresh, as were the nicely cooked, flavorful vegetables (hiding under the skate in the picture), which balanced the dish nicely. The broth was gorgeous, rich with the flavor of vegetables and skate.

We were, unfortunately, too full for dessert this time. (I think the saltiness of the zuppa d'arzilla did me in, since I had to chase the food with a great deal of water.) But that just means I'll need to make a return visit -- and soon. Chef Nick Anderer clearly oversees a highly competent kitchen.

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Maialino
2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

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  1. I recently ate at Maialino for a friends 40th birthday. I too had the octopus app and found it to be perfectly balanced between the char of the octopus and the acidity of the lemon. The Potatoes were not at all mushy and celery added great texture.
    We had the Maialino for entree which lived up to the hype. it can feed 4 people and the crispy skin off set by the soft underbelly of the pork was outstanding.
    We had a phenom bottle of red wine called Lava which I had never seen before. $86 and was amazing. This is a sestination place for sure. The bar was too crowede when we arrivd so we had drinks as the Rose bar across the hall. Small but comfy.

    -----
    Maialino
    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

    11 Replies
    1. re: princeofpork

      I'm glad to hear you liked the maialino al forno, especially considering where your loyalties seem to lie, according to your handle. Was it a great deal of food for four? I thought our waitress told us it was available for two people, but maybe I misheard or maybe we just looked exceptionally fat and hungry.

      Speaking of wines, their house wine (San Felice Perolla Rosso) was surprisingly good. Not a long finish, but plenty of body and lots and lots of plum, cherry and ripe fruit. The tannins went really nicely with food.

      1. re: michelleats

        We have done the "regular size" maialino with three people and with four. In both instances, there was not a morsel left on the platter. You did hear correctly, though, that there is a smaller version for two people Btw, it comes with wonderful roasted potatoes.

        Maialino photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        1. re: RGR

          There was only 2 of us and we had plenty left over. The price was $90 for the dish.

          1. re: princeofpork

            Is the $90 meant for just two, then? My piggy friends and I seem to have a tendency to clean house when we do these large format meals so maybe we'd need a few of these.

          2. re: RGR

            Well, that's pretty good inspiration.

            I know you've had the Momofuku bossam meal as well. Judging only by the food (I know you don't like the Momofuku setup), how do you think the two compare? Or are they too different to compare?

            1. re: michelleats

              There were 11 Hounds at the Bo Ssam. Despite the fact that we ordered other dishes, the size was really not large enough for that number of people. Thus, the portion I had was rather meager, and I didn't get to taste any of the skin. Worse, the meat was too dry, making it difficult to discern any flavorings.

              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              1. re: RGR

                I'm surprised the meat was dry at Momofuku, given the thick layer of fat that shields the meat during roasting. It's a crying shame you didn't get a good taste of it. (As an aside: Unfortunately in these situations, the women in the group tend to be more restrained. I wish that weren't the case, but it's difficult to overcome conditioning, isn't it?)

                I guess it's safe to assume that Maialino's suckling pig didn't have any issues with dryness or blandness, then? It's certainly glisteny and juicy-looking in your photos.

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                Maialino
                2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                1. re: michelleats

                  I made it clear that the size of the pig was not sufficient to adequately feed 11 people, and I fault the restaurant for misleading us into thinking it would be. steakrules was seated to my immediate right. Iirc, he didn't have more than I did, and he agreed with me that the meat was dry.

                  Yes, the maialino's skin was wonderfully crisp, and the meat was juicy and full of flavor.

                  Btw, re: your statement that women dining with a large group are "conditioned" to be "more restrained." Frankly, I think that's bunk.

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  1. re: RGR

                    Hah, that's funny. Personally, I'm more likely to be assertive / aggressive about getting my fair share. :)

                    1. re: RGR

                      >>Btw, re: your statement that women dining with a large group are "conditioned" to be "more restrained." Frankly, I think that's bunk.

                      Sorry to impose my own experiences on you, then. I'm glad that wasn't the case in your group. But when there is some threat of scarcity, I have noticed that most women, especially of older generations, tend to restrain themselves, while some men do not. It's also quite cultural: Those who grow up in a culture of family style dining tend to be more aware of whether others are eating enough. I've been to a number of group meals with colleagues and even sometimes friends where some in the group groaned about being much too full after dinner, while others left hungry because they were worried about leaving enough for others. But this is a subject for another board. I'm glad this hasn't ever been the case for you.

                      The reason why I'm surprised you didn't have enough to eat at Ssam Bar is because for our group of 9-10, bossam + a few dishes was a healthy amount. Some of us were full, others were overly full and there was even a modest amount left over -- probably enough for at least one more meal for a moderate to big eater. We also didn't find the meat even remotely dry.

                      In any event, I look forward to trying the maialino al forno at Maialino. Thanks for your opinion.

                      1. re: michelleats

                        I didn't mean to imply that I went away hungry from the Bo Ssam. I did not.

                        When you get around to trying the maialino al forno, I hope you enjoy it.

                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        2. Thanks for the report michelleats. We love this restaurant and it's always good to hear such a positive review like yours as it tells me the place is still going strong.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ttoommyy

            Thank you for reading, ttoommyy!

          2. i was at maialino about 2 weeks ago for the first time. it was fine enough but i don't see myself returning much.

            service was 'danny meyer nice'...i.e. a bit too nice and fake. our waiter was a good guy and we tried to let him know he can tone it down but he couldn't budge. he was too polite all night...and not in a good way.

            we ordered a bunch of items...the fried artichokes were fine enough but a bit oily and overall forgettable. the carbonara was not homemade and the pasta was a bit toothsome. ive had much better preparations at dell'anima...even at lupa. the maialino malfatti was a highlight though something was missing in the pasta. it just tasted like excellent malfatti pasta and hunks of pork...not a bad thing but pretty one-note in taste.

            they actually make the maialino al forno for one...my girlfriend and i had it and were stuffed. it's a massive piece of pig. i think it costs $35 for one and $90 for two...which was odd. the potatoes couldve been better with a bit of char on them but no big deal. we also ordered a side of roasted turnips with pancetta...they were also not cooked enough. i was hoping they'd be blistered like you'd have at vinegar hill house with their hearth.

            the highlight of the meal was oddly dessert...a fantastic piece of plum cake...a bit oil-y but goddamn, one of the best desserts ive had in a long time. like an olive oil cake with tons of plums...served warm.

            overall, dinner was fine but one-note. and if i was going to have something heavy and one-note, id probably prefer to go to keens and have a porterhouse or the mutton chop. just my 2 cents.

            7 Replies
            1. re: sam1

              Nice rundown, Sam -- I very much appreciate these kinds of detailed reviews.

              I know what you mean about Danny Meyer nice. I actually found our waitress more endearing for the fact that she was kinda grouchy (frazzled) at first, until we cracked a joke and made her laugh. She was very genuinely nice after that.

              I also think I might understand what you mean about it being one-note. Preparations are often very simple (or maybe deceptively simple). There are very few ingredients in each dish and preparation methods seem to be pretty straightforward. I guess to me, that seems to be the soul of a lot of Italian cuisine, though: very good ingredients that a good chef manages to not mess up.

              1. re: michelleats

                maybe it was the oily pasta or the fatty pork...i just left feeling like i left a steakhouse.

                1. re: michelleats

                  One thing about the Batali approach to Italian food (that I enjoy) is that many dishes have an unexpected bit of acid or heat to tie it all together, though. The food remains simple but more balanced. This has also filtered down to dell'anima, which is run of course by ex-Babbo employees.

                  I really love Maialino but the dishes sometimes could use a bit more contrast and balance... I always have a good time but there's something often missing, which I don't find when I go to Scarpetta or Locanda Verde.

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                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                  Locanda Verde
                  377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                  Maialino
                  2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                  1. re: kathryn

                    i totally agree with this...very interesting to point out.

                    maybe it's the 'roman trattoria' style but something was certainly missing.

                  2. re: michelleats

                    Sam, after a meal like the one you described, you'd have to roll me home for sure. :)

                    Kathryn, I've only been to Maialino twice and Scarpetta maybe six or seven times. Based on what I've tried, though, I've actually thought the food at Maialino to be the more nuanced of the two. My blind spots are the pastas, since I don't order those. I know people do rave about the spaghetti at Scarpetta.

                    I have still never, ever (ever!) been to Locanda Verde! Not sure if this is the right thread to ask this question, but if you've suggestions for that restaurant I'm all ears.

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                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    Locanda Verde
                    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    1. re: michelleats

                      For some of the pastas at Maialino, I've had them and thought "this is good but Batali / Conant" could do it better.

                      I've always had great pastas at Scarpetta. Spaghetti pomodoro, the foie and duck ravioli, the black seafood taglioni, whatever pasta he's pairing with rabbit (I think it changes seasonally). Not quite as impressed w/ the mains.

                      At Locanda Verde, the sheep's milk ricotta, meatball sliders, porchetta sandwich, brussels sprouts side, and of course, the pastas.

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                      Scarpetta
                      355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                      Locanda Verde
                      377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                      Maialino
                      2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                  3. re: sam1

                    I haven't been to Maialino yet, but I've been to other Danny Meyer restaurants, and I find "Danny Meyer nice" to be, well.... nice. I don't like obsequious waiters - there was one place (now closed) where the waiter said "How are you?" and I said "Fine, and you?" and he said "Much better now that you're here". Oy! But I do appreciate good service.

                    Like most things we discuss here, it's a matter of taste.

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                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                  4. Lunch at Maialino report
                    I decided to treat myself today. Oh boy! What a great treat!
                    For starters I had the tripe with pecorino and mint. Delightfully balanced, both in terms of texture and flavor. The texture of tripe is hard to describe - sort of spongy - and was set off nicely by the melted cheese. The flavors were interesting too - I've never had tripe with mint, but it's an excellent combination - the mint also cut the richness of the dish. Mint can easily overwhelm, but it played its notes in the background.

                    My main course was the malfatti al mailino - pasta with braised suckling pig and arugula. This was also fantastic. Malfatti is a flat triangular pasta. This made perfect sense with the braised pig, because every bite could have pasta, pig and greens - a delightful trio.

                    And, for dessert, bread pudding. This was good, but next time I may skip dessert and add a side dish. Much on the menu is calling to me.

                    -----
                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: plf515

                      If you liked the tripe there, try it at Babbo as well. Babbo is also known for its mint love letters which is served in a tomato based sauce.

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                      Babbo
                      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                      1. re: kathryn

                        I've been to Babbo three times, but, while the food is fantastic, I found the service rude (e.g. Me: "Do you serve your meals Italian style or American style? Should I order 3 courses?" Waiter: "You can do what you want") and the music ridiculous. Plus, 2 of the 3 times we ate there, we had lousy seats (once we were near the restroom and got a whiff whenever anyone used it; the other time we were next to the kitchen, and had the bang of the doors to accompany the too loud music

                        If I'm going to pay that much for a meal, I'd like everything to be fantastic.

                        Babbo seems to exist to make Mario happy. Fine. His restaurant, he can do what he wants. But I want a restaurant designed to make *me* (and all other customers) happy.

                        I won't be back

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                        Babbo
                        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                      2. re: plf515

                        I've had both of these dishes and agree that they are seriously delicious.

                        1. re: plf515

                          Great review! I don't think I'd ever pick out that tripe dish as something I'd want to try off the menu on my own -- I don't think I've ever had tripe with mint, either, and it's not a combination that immediately clicks in my head -- but you made it sound kinda good.

                          How long did your meal take, if you don't me asking?

                          1. re: michelleats

                            The meal took about 45 minutes, I think. I didn't time it, but there weren't any long delays or anything, nor was I rushed.

                        2. We had a very nice meal here last night, and agree with many of your praises, but one major problem we ran into was that the food was in general overly salty; while most were tolerable, some were to the point that I could not finish the dish. Does anyone feel similar, or was last night an exception?

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Kurtis

                            Thanks for the report, Kurtis. Last night wasn't an exception. I have a pretty salty palate and still find the food at Maialino to be on the salty side.

                            1. re: michelleats

                              Agreed that is was a drop salty but the Maialino al Forno was unreal.

                            2. re: Kurtis

                              Actually, Maialino al Forno was the dish that I could only finish a half due to it being really salty. In addition, it was likely the most disappointing dish of the night since I imagined my plate to be like the one shown on their website - en bloc - but instead got broken down parts roofed by separate piece of crispy skin. I guess this is what our server meant when he said it will be served individually even though there were 4 people on our table who had the dish.

                              Some of the favorites last night were lamb sweetbread and brain lightly battered and quick fried to keep both items smooth as butter and every bit delicious but again bit overly salted. The anchovy dipping sauce for the fried artichoke was lip smackingly good but again artichoke was so heavily salted that I couldn't taste the original ingredient much. I unfortunately didn't get to taste it, but one of the appetizer specials was a single ravioli with egg yolk and shavings of truffle which looked and smelled luxurious and delicious. I did get a taste of small piece of the perfectly medium rare lamb chop that remains memorable and am likely to order on my next visit.

                              Clearly, the chef here knows how to cook, and knows his flavors, but the level of saltiness here seems beyond personal preference IMHO, and am bit puzzled that this is an ongoing issue in otherwise perfect combination of chic and comfortable environment that was entirely packed on Monday night.

                              1. re: Kurtis

                                Kurtis, I completely agree with you about saltiness. We were there a few days ago for the first time, and I could barely eat the fried artichoke. I also had pasta with ramps, which was not oversalted but it was underwhelming. The service and atmosphere were great, but I'm puzzled and surprised that the food wasn't better overall. My favorite item was the Grande assortment of salumi. Those were delicious.

                                1. re: Kurtis

                                  borzoi and jerico's experience pars mine on two occasions, and unfortunately this consistently overly salted plates is what prevents me from returning here after two strikes. While I fully understand that it is of personal preference for the most part, I feel more than handful of their dishes seem beyond that IMHO; I couldn't finish some plates either. For me, comped plates/drinks can't replace a poor execution.

                                2. re: Kurtis

                                  My wife and I just came back from Maialino tonight - had a good meal for the most part (tripe and sweetbread apps were excellent, the salumi/olive starter was delicious, I had the anchovy pasta which i gushed over, my wife had one of the guanciale pastas which she loved) - we both ordered the Maialino primi - frankly, I thought it was grossly oversalted. I have a pretty high tolerance for salt too, and I love pork in all forms, but neither of us could finish that dish. I told our waitress about it, and she said that is just how they do it. They were cool about it (and I wasn't rude) and they comped us the cost of one of the plates (and a round of drinks) - which was very classy of them, but it left a bad impression for me.

                                  I don't think I've ever not finished a dish at a restaurant because of saltiness, until tonight, FWIW.

                                  1. re: jerico

                                    Why would it leave a bad impression? Yes, you thought it was over salted, but they listened and comped you a plate and drinks. I think thats fair. After all, the dish was prepared correctly; you just did not care for it. I could see if the kitchen made a mistake and everyone was sending it back, but this seems to be a personal thing. Ive had the maialino many times and yes it is salty, but i love it that way. Reminds me of how I have had it in Italy. You enjoyed everything else, right? Sounds like a good experience all in all.