On Saturday night, AV and I were hot. And tired. And cranky (well, I was cranky). We had to eat, but we didn't know where. I wasn't hungry, and pretty much the only thing that sounded appealing was a gigantic tub of frozen yogurt from Yogurtland. So, in this proverbial funk, we trudged--yes, trudged-- out of my apartment and to the subway for a trying, nerve-stretching ride in a subway car filled with elbows, inappropriately large musical instruments, and body odor. We got off at West 4th, desperate to escape the stifling heat of the subway, and spilled onto the streets of the West Village, which (coincidentally) were also stiflingly hot.
We walked around, reading menus. AV was unendingly patient as we skipped from window to window trying to find something appealing to my non-hungry stomach. Finally, we ducked into Po and were told by the genial host that a table should open up in about 15 minutes. We told him we'd keep looking but might be back; he took our names, and we departed. In about 5 minutes we were back, and with a smile he told us the table had just opened up. We sat. We sighed.
I've wanted to try Po for a while, and I regret that I wasn't there when I was hungry, because the food was (not surprisingly for Mario Batali's first famous restaurant) quite good. We started with two complimentary white bean bruschetta amuse-bouches, which were hearty and full of garlic on oil-soaked toasted bread. Cue another evening of mutual bad breath.
The bread, which came next, was somewhat disappointing-- thoroughly average with a soft, yielding crust and a relatively dry crumb. Fortunately, I wasn't hungry (did I mention that?).
For entrees, I had chosen the grilled portobello salad with arugula and parmesan. While simple, this salad was quite delicious-- the seasoning they had used on the grilled portobello made it quite likely the tastiest mushroom I'd ever eaten. And the combination of mushroom and parmesan was surprisingly harmonious, certainly more than the sum of its parts.
AV went with the spaghetti alla Amatriciana, with guanciale, red chiles, and tomato. He enjoyed it quite a bit, noting especially its spicy kick. The portion was also very generous.
Even though we were both desperately full at this point, we had our sights set on Yogurtland, so once again we passed on dessert. I feel that Po has the potential to be a high four Offset Spatula restaurant because the food was very good overall. But with the combination of the lackluster bread course and the somewhat bizarre service (while the host was incredibly accommodating, our waiter was a bit weird, for lack of a better description) made me not enjoy this experience as much as I should have. Or-- most likely-- I was just grumpy and not hungry. In any case, I'd certainly go back with the hope of upgrading my review, but as it is, Po is a very solid three Offset Spatula destination.
31 Cornelia Street