Rave for Agrodolce
Dinner last night at Maria Hine's new restaurant was a wow. Unbelievably creative and the quality of the organic ingredients was just stunning. After a perfect negroni, started the meal with an arugula salad with blood orange. I felt like I had ordered rocket salad in Italy - the arugula was spicy like I've only had there, bolder flavor than I've had in US restaurants (this was the first but not the last minute of the evening that I thought: who grew this?). Then had a very soft ricotta ravioli cooked in truffle butter with majoram. Divine! We then shared 2 entrees: albacore with kale and white beans and lamb with onion marmalade. The tuna was perfectly rare and the kale was the best prepartion of that green I have ever eaten. The lamb was tender, perfect barely medium rare and the onion and celeriac along side it were brilliant compliments. Desserts were a Theo chocolate budino (chocolate lover's must) and a very creative pistachio gelato "sandwich" with a soft, slightly sweet "bread" that looked like a small bagel but tasted somewhat like angel food cake. Service was very good for 8 days post opening. They were busy but the handsome bearded young man who is often at the Golden Beetle was keeping the front of the house in good order, as well as recommending a yummy wine to accompany dinner. The bill for 2 of us (we had split all the food I described plus had a cocktail and one glass of wine each) was $130 without the tip. Great value in my opinion.
Trying to figure out where to dine tonight, I checked Open Table and Argrodolce appeared to have openings, so I headed over. It was 8:20, OT showed 8:30 and 8:45 open. The hostess looked quite harried, said they were fully booked and recommended that next time I call a bit earlier. No suggested wait time, just "sorry". OK, whatever.
The Whale Wins was much more accommodating.
No, I had not made a reservation, I had merely checked OT to see if tables were available, figuring they probably would not book in the 5 or 10 minutes it took me to get over to Fremont from SLU. They were still available on OT when I got back to my car. I had to check to see if I had been mistaken. A host should know which tables are about to turn and be able to offer a wait time. It was no big deal, but I was very surprised to just be turned away. Maybe the kitchen was slow and tables weren't turning, maybe they need to block a few slots on OT to give themselves more flexibility. I'm sure they will get it figured out, it is somewhat of an art.
I tried again last night, and since it was a slow Monday they were happy to see me.
The ricotta ravioli with black truffle butter was my favorite course, although the slightly crunchy edges of the pasta where it was in two layers was distracting. I would have preferred the edges pinched into a thinner layer for more even cooking.
Slow cooked rabbit cacciatora with black olive, fregola, and dried tomato was delicious but on the salty side. The chunks of rabbit were nice and tender, but the dish seemed heavy on the fregola. If I had thought it through more thoroughly I would not have ordered two pasta courses (though the rabbit was a secondi, maybe that is why I didn't think about the fregola being redundant after ravioli).
Chocolate pudding with chestnut chantilly was deeply chocolate and satisfying, but if there was any chestnut in the cream it was far overpowered by the chocolate. I wished there had been one more component (aside from mint leaves), like some candied chestnut or a cookie, it would have seemed more special and more worth $7.
I'm not giving it a rave, but it was good overall.
We went last night and thought it was very good. Two of us shared:
--cauliflower soup with black olive vinaigrette, chickpea, preserved lemon
I loved the vinaigrette and crunchy chickpeas garnishing this soup (along with the soup itself).
--slow cooked rabbit cacciatora with black olive, fregola, oven dried tomato
This was my favorite, everything was done well and it was extraordinarily delicious.
--seafood risotto with taylor shellfish clam, penn cove mussel, sylver spot prawn
I don't normally order risotto because it's so heavy, but my partner loved this. This was a good version, I thought he was going to lick the bowl.
--lacinato kale with lemon, chili flake, shallot
You can actually taste the chili in this! I loved this side, it really rounded out the meal and was extremely tasty.
We'll be back.