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

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ostermia Morini - March 20, 2011

Even something bad can be grand and acknowledged for its very monstrosity, abominability and provocation since it has the power to make you react, to stimulate your thoughts and to force you to see things in a different light – like the painting, Scissors and Butterflies by Clemente. Fine arts have this visual sensory power. The same can be said about food: For example, natto (Japanese fermented soy beans), stinky tofu (Chinese fermented tofu), surströmming (Scandinavian rotten fish), and hongeohoe* (Korean fermented ammoniac skate) can all derive strong responses from both ends of the spectrum. Therefore, in a sense, the good and the “bad” all have a place in the world of art. As a corollary, then, what should not be accorded its existence is a thing of banality, boredom and insipidity – the petit bourgeois mentality or taste, as embodied in Osteria Morini.
*Which is “neutralized” by ingesting a large amount of makgeolli, a type of rice wine.

Prosciutto di Parma; Speck; Mortadella

The fatty speck somehow lacked the characteristic smoke and spice, which made it indistinguishable from the fatty prosciutto. The silken mortadella was freckled with creamy globs of fat. Just to make sure in case there was not enough porcine fat on the board, a whisked lardo spread was provided for further artery clogging. The warm crumpet-like tigelle modenese was the sole saving grace of the plate.

Sformato parmigiano

The custard defiled the expected delicacy of a sformato, which was further coarsened by the heavy but bland wild mushroom sugo. Now, I understand why some people hate rice pudding; they must have had something similar to this sformato. Faced with such disgraceful treatment, the advertised “truffle” was shamed into hiding.

Cappelletti - Truffled mascarpone ravioli, melted butter, prosciutto

Let us being by a game of association: Truffle, mascarpone cheese, butter and prosciutto, what do they have in common? The answer: Epicurian pleasure. Then, I would like to ask you this: Can pleasure be multiplied; is more always better? Yes, it can be – Tournedos Rossini made with Kenran Beef** at Chez Matsuo comes to mind. However, just as the tertiary color produced by a mixture of the primary colors of red, yellow and green does not always result in a pleasing shade, the keys to the art of pleasure multiplication (or addition) are tact, taste and talent. Indeed, the ravioli were enjoyable to the narrow extent that they were well-boiled, well-buttered and well-stuffed and not overly salty, soft or soggy. If that was the limit of my expectation, it would have been rather disrespectful, do you not think, against such a renowned chef; as a matter of fact, I should expect from the master of pasta with access to so many decadent ingredients a magic, a spell, or an artistic performance that would open the eyes. Yet instead, the flavor was flat and uninteresting despite the high pedigree and multiple endowments.
**If you are still mired in the ignorant myth that Kobe Beef is the best, well, I will simply leave you in it.

Tortelli della Nonna - Braised beef ravioli, sugo di arrosto, fossa cheese

The braised beef ravioli fared slightly better than the truffled friend simply because it was the frog compared to the Prince Charming so there was less expectation. The skin of the ravioli was too thin to contain and withstand the fortissimo meaty force.

Polenta al Forno con Funghi – Wild mushrooms, ricotta & rosemary bread crumbs
The creamy polenta had a pleasant texture – creamer and lighter than the sformato, although the only other difference, aside from the texture, between this dish and the sformato seemed to be limited to the use of rosemary.

Petroniana - Crispy veal cutlet, prosciutto cotto, buttered spinach, parmigiano, truffle cream

When I was little, the adults used to warn the children against the candy trick of kidnappers, to which I always gave a disdainful sideway glance – why would I fall for mere candies (at least, a gigantic chocolate parfait, perhaps, and better make it two). Many decades later, a plate of those black lovelies may just take me anywhere on an invisible leash – Ah, how wisdom does not come with age. Luckily, there was no risk of kidnapping for me this evening; unluckily, I had a plate of pale, rubbery and soggy meat, described actually as “crispy,” which might have been in wax (have you seen those ingenious Asian wax models of food?) for its texture and the lack of flavor.

There is a difference between ostentation and luxury and between debauchery and indulgence. Where the flavor and technique wanted, Mr. White had chosen to supplant, or mask, by sly use of fat. However, had the public a more independent and discerning mind so that they would not insensibly dance to the tune of the Emperor’s New Clothes, then Signore Bianco would not have been able to make such a fool of us.

Osteria Morini
Address:  218 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012
Phone:  (212) 965-8777

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