Monday, April 20, 2009

Major tweaks at Convivio

My mom was in town, and as is custom she wanted to take her children etc. out for dinner. The bro was at work, so AV and I headed to Midtown East for some yummy eats. For the occasion, I had chosen Convivio, for its legendary Italian food and its proximity to my mom's hotel.

The Convivio dining room is stark white and plush. The chairs were bizarre: overstuffed silver pleather numbers with a straight right angle that made you sit up church style, shoulders back and chin up. There were plenty of soft textiles in the room, but nonetheless, when our waiter came over to deliver an absurd and overly pretentious dissertation on the menu ("we recommend our menu as a four-course prix fixe" [oh really?]; "Each item is also available a la carte; you'll find each with a price affixed to it on the menu" [unlike at all other restaurants...]; "Don't leave without trying our pastas, because we pride ourselves on our pasta"; etc. etc.), he spoke so softly each of us only heard about a third of his words. No matter. We could read the menu and placed our orders accordingly.

Very shortly, the bread woman (yesssss) came by proferring olive bread, ciabatta, or whole wheat. While my prudent side screamed "whole wheat!" I ended up selecting a fat slice of olive bread, and I'm glad I did. The bread was chewy and substantial, and there were WHOLE green olives buried inside, the perfect addition of squish and saltiness. Yummmm. Mom and AV each had the ciabatta, which also looked good.

A big hunk of yummy bread

Then our first course arrived. AV and I split a dish of the olives, which were whole green olives with the occasional strip of citrus zest. These olives were delectable: plump and juicy and salty and scrumptious. We polished them off easily.

Beautiful fat masterpieces

Mom had chosen the spring vegetable salad, which, coincidentally, was also my entree. When I saw it arrive, I knew I had tweaked-- I had been choosing between the salad and a few other appealing offerings (sauteed mushrooms; straciatella cheese; broccoletti...) but had gone with the salad. My mom enjoyed it, but I found it only okay: the vegetables were shaved thin and interesting, but the whole thing was doused in a very thin soupy dressing that pooled at the bottom of the bowl. The veggies were bitter with very little to temper the bite, and the promised fresh ricotta came slathered on an oiled crouton, so I couldn't even really mix the cheese with the veggies. After seeing my mom's salad, I should have changed my order. Sigh.

Crazy melange

For the entree course, my mom had chosen the rare grilled tuna, which came with artichoke pepperonata, basil puree, mollica di pane (not sure what that is), and lemon. Mom really enjoyed this fish, which was very rare and came with a lot of interesting sauces. Give my mom a good piece of fish and she's a happy gal.

Raw fish and crazy garnishes

AV had selected the cavatelli al forno, with "braised rabbit ragu, fava beans, scamorza, and love." After watching him take two bites, I know AV didn't like this dish. He very, very gamely (so to speak) ate it with a smile to avoid making a scene, until Mom and I called him out on it, at which point he still pretended to like it before ultimately breaking down. His description: Incredibly, hyper-ly oversalted and intensely gamey, like something you'd expect to find at a Montana lodge after shooting and skinning your own dinner. As he put it, it's something you'd like to dip a corner of a piece of bread in and then eat the whole piece of bread, not put away an entire dish of. Good person that he is, AV picked out all the cavatelli and acted happy. Sigh.


So one winner, two losers-- but there was still an opportunity for dessert to rescue the night. And rescue it did. AV chose the chocolate budino, with "warm dark chocolate, hazelnut gelato, and candied hazelnuts." Both my mom and I had a bite, and this was a fantastic dessert, with the crunch of hazelnut, the cool melt of gelato, and the rich, fudgy baked chocolate cake. Mmmm. I coveted that dessert.

I want this.

But my own selection was yummy as well. I got the brasato d'ananas, which was vanilla braised pineapple, coconut custard, and coconut sorbet. There was a squiggle of bruleed marshmallow on top, which was sticky and sweet. The pineapple pieces were incredibly tender, and the coconut sorbet was cool and smooth. The custard was very rich, which was delicious at first but by the end of the dessert became almost cloying (even though the dessert wasn't especially huge). Still, overall it was a very tasty dessert and a good cap to the meal.

Fruity and sweet

So, my final verdict on Convivio is: for the most part, we ordered wrong. I'm sure with a different selection I would have been much happier, and I'm confident with AV it would have been the same way. I would definitely come back to order something else, and I know Convivio is a good restaurant, but based on my experience I have to give it three Offset Spatulas, with the hope that I can return, re-review, and upgrade the place to at least four spats.

45 Tudor City Place

1 comment:

Melissa Good Taste said...

The rabbit dish did look overwhelmingly cheesy - which I love. But, I can honestly say I have never had rabbit... I need to venture out more!