Sunday, February 27, 2011

Danny Meyer is a Solid Bloke

Coppa Croccante al Maialino

But this isn't really a piece about Danny Meyer, it's about my Restaurant Week lunch at Maialino, his Roman-style Italian restaurant in the Grammercy Park Hotel. And Restaurant Week, for me, is a great way of testing a restaurateur's morals. Will the special menu be two or three choices in each category from the bottom of the barrel, as is the case at too many restaurants (i Trulli, for instance)? Not at Meyer's properties. At Maialino there was a choice of 8 appetizers, 9 main courses and 6 desserts, most of them quite tempting.

This is characteristic of Meyer's approach to Restaurant Week. While I've never been lucky enough to score a RW reservation at Grammercy Tavern or Union Square Cafe, the menus always look fabulous. The restaurant week lunch I had at 11 Madison Park a while back was a winner.

My lunchmate and I shared all three courses.

For appetizers we had the smoked swordfish, a tiny portion but quite good (I'm guessing it was a half portion of the $15 menu item). More substantial, and maybe more interesting, was the artichoke mousse on toast. The base for the mousse tasted like it was something of a Hollandaise.

We decided one of our mains should be a pasta and chose the paccheri all'amatriciana, a classic Roman dish of fat, wide macaroni and a spicy tomato sauce with guanciale (pork cheeks). The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce delicious; once again my only complaint was the rather small size of the serving.

Out other main course, however was quite ample, interesting and wonderful. Called coppa croccante al Maialino (shown at top), it's described as a crispy suckling pig terrine with lentils and poached egg.

Both desserts were more than satisfying, though I give the slight edge to the olive oil cake with vanilla bean mascarpone over the torta della nonna (lemon tart with pine nuts and caramel).

This was one of the better Restaurant Week meals I've had, and I would recommend Maialino without hesitation. However, the disparity in portion sizes could be problematic. If I weren't sharing and only had the smoked swordfish and the pasta (with either dessert) I might have gone away a little hungry.

2 Lexington Avenue


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