"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Friday, February 4, 2011

Il Buco - February 2, 2011

As I hurried to the restaurant, for as ever, I was running (or walking) five minutes behind schedule – they say your glass is either half full or half empty, but in my case, I am perpetually five minutes behind no matter how you look at it – and I was meeting someone for the first time, I was seized by a sense of déjà vu. I had been here; I had hurried along the same desolate pavement. However, the time then was summer. How do I not remember this restaurant, famous for the rustically charming décor reeking of romance? Yes, at that time, I sat outside, looking at the closed storefronts across the street. And yes, I do not remember it because the food did not merit a space in my limited supply of gray cells. Oh no. Not only did I pick the restaurant again, but picked it for a meeting with a fellow gourmand. Not good.

Brussels Sprouts “Petals” – poached egg, anchovies, cheese

I found this intriguing rendition of Brussels Sprouts on their somewhat fixed appetizer menu – the entrees
changed daily – because of the word, “petals.” However, after the initial impression of plain prettiness had worn off, the “petals” of Brussels sprouts seemed more like an effort at cost reduction rather than at textural improvement. The balls of anchovies ruled over the dish with a firm hand, which required heftier foundation than meager petals to withstand.  And, the shaved bottarga on my egg added even more salt to the dish. (I had recently made lobster ravioli with bottarga, which seemed to be a much better use of the lovely fish egg.) Despite their pride in the ingredients, the single poached egg was thin and wan, which seemed substandard compared to the eggs I get from a farmer’s market myself.  

Cod – chanterelle mushrooms, potato puree

The cod was a seriously nice piece of white scrumptious flesh – flaky and milky. I would have liked to take the fish – pre-cooking – and ran back home. I should have. The flavorless chanterelle mushrooms, dried without adequate soaking, did nothing for the darling fish of mine and remained dried, shriveled and forlorn. I know, I know, it happens to me, too when I am in a rush to get a dinner out and forget to soak the dried mushrooms in advance; however, I also know hot water would have sped up the process sufficiently so that my dinner guests would not have to grind their teeth on the stems. But, the mushrooms were a non-issue compared to the powerfully nauseating taste of lard, seeping into every empty space among the fibrous chanterelles and every cell of the cod. I had often wondered about the relationship between calories and pleasure: The more fattening the food is, the better it tastes, generally, does it not? However, now there is an exception to the rule. I think a steamed fish will be nice the next time I am dining out.

Panna cotta with balsamic vinegar

At first bite, the aged balsamic – ten years – seemed still too acidic and pungent to close off a meal. Yet, as the panna cotta was warmed on the palate to release the cream, the vinegar became mild and then even pleasurable, like a grumpy old man with a hidden sweet side – you need to give it a bit of time to allow it to warm up to you. This was, no doubt, the best part of the dinner.

Il Buco
Address: 47 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012
Phone:  (212) 533-1932

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