Saturday, April 2, 2011

A lacklustre performance in the Fens

There is a degree of expectation associated with any off the beaten path restaurant that has recently been dubbed a 'gem' by a prominent food reviewer.
A friend and I followed this sense of expectation with enthusiasm on our way to Trattoria Toscano in Fenway. It was reported to be a 29 seat restaurant, vivaciously reminiscent of Tuscany with the feeling of being in the chef's back garden. You can imagine my degree of excitement!
All was well upon arrival, the place was quaint and small, with an authentic and rustic feeling atmosphere. First impression = strong.

The restaurant was about three quarters full and my friend and I slipped easily into a two top table by the kitchen. We were greeted by a warm and friendly waiter and ordered a bottle of red.  Unfortunately, from here on in, the good impression lost quite a bit of ground...
The wine we received had not been stored at the appropriate temperature, having been kept on a shelf near the hot kitchen.  It was thus far too an Italian restaurant that boasts such authenticity, this is surely a big no-no.
Brushing this aside and giving them the benefit of the doubt, we placed our order.
First up was their Burrata, which was also subjected to an erred serving temperature.  Burrata is supposed to be room temperature in order for the soft and creamy flavour to be appreciated and easily smoothed over bread.  This one seemed to have come out of the refrigerator...

The crostini received a mixed degree of success. The heavier pâtés were rich and tasty and well balanced against the toasted bread, but the others, a very weak salumi and sautéed porcini, were more difficult to appreciate.  I think this dish would have done better if it had been on thinner slices of toast. This picture really shows the thickness of the bread almost outweighing the toppings, which is not the desired effect of crostini.

Moving on we got their home-made pasta and their porcini risotto.  These dishes rated much better than the previous two.  The pasta was cooked to perfection and the sauce, a sundried tomato with pancetta was spiced just right.  Their risotto reminded me of the risotto I had in San Sebastian being lighter than usual which is refreshing.  I would personally have preferred a bit more thickness to the sauce...but I won't complain too much about that.
For our entrées, we ordered their veal liver which very tasty, the sauce was a perfect match for the meat's strong and particular flavor.
I would give their steak an average grade. It was presented nicely with some well roasted vegetables, but I am a tough judge when it comes to steak and I wouldn't go out of my way to order this one.

We finished our meal with a sweet, homemade ending; flourless chocolate cake and some freshly whipped cream.  As always, a dessert, when taken seriously is my weakness and this one was good. The chocolate was rich and the cake dense and fudge-like, the whipped cream was dusted with a nice touch of cinnamon.
In all fairness, I think I would have enjoyed this meal more if I had not gone in with such high expectactions.  It is just such a disappointment when you ask where certain ingredients come from and get 'I am not sure, we import it' as an answer.  Perhaps we just hit a night when the temperatures were out of sorts in the kitchen and the menu was full of new's to giving them the benefit of the doubt!

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