L'Impero, June 15, 2006
Tudor City, bet. 42nd and 41st Streets
My sister has recently been hired by Forbes and in preparation for her first New York City job, decided to practice her new commute to get a feel for it before she starts. I'm sure the lure of a free lunch with Dad didn't hurt her decision either.
Needless to say, she has learned a thing or two from me over the years. That being said, she and I had lunch with my dad today at L'Impero. I've been there once before with dad for lunch (his office is a stone's throw) and enjoyed the experience. Today didn't disappoint.
Dad went ahead and bought the wine you see below. It was fantastic. Excellent flavor, smell and body. Also went perfectly with the pasta dish I ordered.
To compare and contrast my appetizer at lunch at The Modern earlier in the week, I went ahead and ordered the Yellowfin Tuna appetizer from the "Suschi" section of the menu. It was served with squash blossoms, mint, orange puree and tomato vinaigrette ($16). For starters, the portion size of this was larger, four pieces of tuna verses three at The Modern. The "salad" and vinaigrette on this dish was better than that at the modern though the tuna at The Modern, with its seasoned edges might have been slightly tastier. Overall, this was a more interesting dish but the value was still questionable. For my entree, I chose house-made Pappardelle with rabbit ragu, parsnips, mint, and pignoli ($23). This was very good, and as mentioned above, went very well with the wine. The mint in both dishes worked well...and I hate to admit it, but I didn't try to go that route on purpose. It kind of brought the two very different dishes together in a way. The pasta was very fresh, the dish was fragrant but not overpowering in any way and the rabbit was simply perfect. But again, is it a $23 bowl of pasta? Perhaps. It's the same price as a bowl of the Papparadelle with Wild Boar Ragu at Babbo, but $5 more than the Mint Love Letters dish at the same Batali establishment. If, knowing all of this, I could choose a price I'd think was fair to pay, I'd price it at $20. Still, all in all, a great dish. I particularly enjoy, as with all of L'Impero's dishes, the attention to detail. All of the parsnips in this dish and the cucumber (unlisted on the menu) in my appetizer were cut perfectly uniform and small. I love it. Looks great, makes for enjoyable bites of different textures and probably helps in the overall taste of the dish.
I was going to hold off but I still had room. The appetizer was light, the pasta was light (a compliment) and the rabbit ragu wasn't super-heavy so I decided to have something. I opted for the Hazelnut Bundt Cake ($9.50) served with rum zabaglione, brandied prunes and panna cotta. Again, the aroma coming from this dish was terrific...but not overpowering. The cake was warm and was a little crumbly but very tasty. The panna cotta, especially with a piece of the cake, was a perfect match. Even the brandied prunes were a nice treat...and was similar to the wine we were drinking. A nice dessert.
Service was just okay. It wasn't bad. Not in the least. The bread guy was nice. He seemed like he wanted to please...even if it just meant offering you bread. I liked that guy.
Overall the lunch was very good. It's not the kind of place I can afford to go regularly but one I'd splurge for once in awhile...though I didn't have to this time. Thanks Dad. I didn't stick around to see if there would be petit fours (I had to get back downtown) but there wasn't an amuse. Hmmm. If there was an amuse, I'd probably vote in favor of this restaurant over The Modern for lunch, but with the service, the view of fine sculptures and additional food items including an array of petit fours, The Modern might have the edge. It's a really tough call.