We had a wonderful time at USC last night. We might've made a mistake in estimating their portion sizes (pants were a little tight afterward), but a solid meal was had and the overall experience was great.
Between the two of us we had:
- marinated beets: very flavourful; my favourite starter
- crispy pig ears: a bit too sweet for my taste - I needed the tarragon mustard for balance
- fried calamari: a generous heap of crispy calamari - no complaints there
- papperdelle with rabbit: went well with the chanterelle - gf's favourite
- fettucine with goat ragu: I would've liked the goat a bit gamier and the sauce a bit thicker, but tasty nonetheless
- scallops: three pan-seared; sweetness retained in the scallops but I'm not sure about the chestnut puree
- lamb chops: very generous portion (four!); correctly cooked and very tender; the sides were too aggressively salted, though
- banana tart: I don't usually like bananas or macadamia but I quite enjoyed this; towards the end of it I felt it a bit too heavy, though
- porter sundae: interesting, but the popcorn sort of gets in the way
As an added touch, they spelled out "Happy Anniversary" around the banana tart (I had mentioned the occasion on OpenTable) and brought out the gift I had previously dropped off on cue. Our waitress whose name I regret not to have caught was warm, friendly, and knowledgeable, and made our meal that much more enjoyable.
The space is a bit cramped, but I didn't feel uncomfortable. The waitstaff had to maneuver around some tables once in a while and that's about it. It was a good night.
Well in that case, my thoughts of recommending their classic cocktails likely wouldn't help. Irrespective, they personally make a great simple Martini, Negroni, and Old Fashioned.
As far as food is concerned, I've never had an issue with anything on their menu. Just a great neighborhood spot with impeccable service and a homey feel. I'd recommend simply what you feel like eating on the day and I'm sure it'll be great :)
During my recent dinners at USC I've enjoyed the polenta with taleggio and wild mushrooms (for me, it's even better than the version at Scarpetta), beet and blue cheese salad, garganelli with zucchini pesto and stracciatella, the corn side dish with scallions and sweet paprika, and the banana tart with macadamia brittle and honey vanilla ice cream.
I've heard that the burger is amazing but I haven't tried it yet.