Insieme, September 1, 2007

777 7th Ave

My lunch at Insieme several weeks back was pretty solid. When I tried to stop in without a reservation for lunch a few weeks later, I was shut out, despite a nearly completely empty room...citing "all tables were reserved." That pissed me off. It was ludicrous to not let me turn a quick table. I'd have been in and out before half the place got filled. Service hasn't been the strongest suit in my experience at Marco Canora's other restaurant, Hearth.

But I trust Marco Canora as a chef, and so I thought an early dinner before seeing A Chorus Line at the Schoenfeld Theater was a good choice.

For whatever reason, I am missing several photos of our dinner, specifically our appetizers. But we'll get to all that soon enough.

Service was off to a terrific start. The well-dressed maitre d' presented us with two complimentary glasses of prosecco in honor of Danna's birthday (the benefits of include the option to give the restaurant info about you as their guest). I shrugged off his desire to explain what prosecco was to us.

We got a bunch of very tasty amuses. So good that we actually started in on them immediately, forgetting to take out the camera right away - so what is missing are two holed out radishes with bagna cauda. Delicious, and got us thinking we need to have that at home again. Danna's mom made it one night - excellent. Other items included an eggplant caponita (excellent) and a fish (cod/salt cod?) puree in a potato, topped with red pepper (ok).

Then they brought out an egg drop soup, which was completely unexpected. Danna really enjoyed hers, I thought it was good, but nothing terribly special.

Danna ordered the Lasagna Verde Alla Bolognese ($16) from the traditional side of the menu to start (still very good) and I ordered the Veitellone Crudo alla Piemont ($16), pasture-fed baby beef tartate with cremini mushrooms and lemon. Unfortunately, I didn't get my tartare. I was served something else and, thinking I simply ordered wrong (its happened before), dug into what would turn out to be a remarkably bland fritto misto (a $15 plate of calves liver, sweetbreads, veal cutlet, veal tongue). What a terrible dish. Did they season it? It was like a really bad chicken francaise. Maybe I just don't get it. Anyway, they fixed the problem very quickly, and allowed us to keep the bollo misto (we passed). The tartare was delicious. One of the best I've ever had. If that's your thing...I'd recommend it.
The lamb dish ($36) on the contemporary side of the menu sounded excellent. Both Danna and I had eyed it and since we were sharing (as usual), one of us would have to get it. It included a chop, the saddle, a sausage in a squash round, and breast with lavendar, chanterelle mushrooms and a broth that stayed on your lips for a long time after eating it. A bit rich, especially this time of year, but still great.

We balanced the meat dish (sort of) with Mediterranean Bass "Saltimbocca" ($30) which was served with baby leeks, savoy cabbage, sage and perfectly wrapped in prosciutto. Expertly prepared. Delicious.

I knew exactly what Danna was going to get for dessert...the Bomboloni ($10) from the traditional side of the menu. These small cream-filled yeast donuts were served with a chocolate sauce. We'd have eaten as many of these as they were willing to give us. Delicious.

I went for the pistachio cake ($10) that was a bit dry, and served with local strawberries. Just okay.

We were given some petit fours that included a chocolate filled pastry (great), a pistachio bar (better than the cake) and mini biscotti, one with a pistachio in it, the other curiously missing one. Coffee was good too.

Overall, a very good dining experience minus the one mixup that, to someone else might have been a really big deal, but not for us. I highly recommend going here for dinner before hitting a Broadway show. You'd be hard pressed to find much better in the neighborhood. And compared to db Bistro Moderne, also in the vicinity, you'll be getting much more for your money at Insieme.


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