Friday, January 8, 2010

Otto again, this time with friends

On a frigid, cold, frosty Sunday night, AV and I headed out into the wild to have dinner with his friends DZ and AF. We were looking for someplace equidistant from their homebase (Brooklyn) and ours (Hell's Kitchen), relatively inexpensive, and veggie-friendly... and after an extensive and exhaustive search, it became clear that the perfect option was...Otto. Yes, we'd been there two nights before, but it was so good, and it was SO perfect. So off we went.

Not surprisingly, it was much less crowded on a Sunday evening than it had been on Friday. This time we were seated in the front dining room, which was about 20 degrees warmer than our previous location, a huge bonus at the time. But unfortunately we were stuck with our same lame server. No matter, we pressed on.

DZ started with a cocktail, a craveworthy champagne and raspberry liqueur concoction. Well-made, and like a tiny little ruby adorning our table.

Cocktail, with background

After the drinks course, our table started with two orders of Brussels sprouts to share. AV and I had talked them up so much that DZ and AF were on board. We all loved them this time around. Mmmmmm, sprouts.

Same caramelized beauties

On to the entrees. AV went with the quattro formaggio pizza again. Though he was ambivalent last time, this time he knew what he was in for, and that improved the experience exponentially. The cheese was still quartiled, which I find a bit weird, and the crust was a bit burned, but AV enjoyed it.

Sectored cheeses

DZ went for a pizza with tomato and garlic and a light sprinkling of cheese. Apparenlty the garlic was melted into little puddles, visible below... another slightly odd choice. It seems as though the Otto MO is just to glop stuff on the pizza rather than distribute evenly. But hey, as a non-pizza-eater myself, who am I to cast aspersions? No one. That's who.

Pockets of melted garlic

AF went for the penne puttanesca. Although our waiter thought the dish had meat in it (uh, no), in reality it was the typical enticing mixture of anchovies, capers, olives, and tomato. AF definitely liked the pasta and appreciated the appropriate portion size. She also got a side order of the eggplant caponata, about which she issued appropriate raves.

Pasta, oddly beautiful

What could go wrong with eggplant and oil?

My choice was an order of cauliflower alla Siciliana, which apparently means prepared with capers and olives. Although I like both those ingredients because they're salty and flavorful, once again this dish was sort of flavorless. I suspect it may be because the vegetable antipasti are served at room temp rather than hot-- it might dull the flavor a little bit. Regardless, I enjoyed the cauliflower, and along with the sprouts it was a filling and cruciferous meal.

There's caulfilower and stuff in there

On to dessert. AV and I had sung the praises of the gelato, so we all dove in. DZ went with the olive oil, hazelnut stracciatella, and eggnog (the eggnog was STRONG and authentic with an alcoholic nip on the tongue). I went with the olive oil and hazelnut stracciatella. And AV went for the full monty of straight stracciatella. AF was content with a cappuccino. I'll tell you, as many have said before, while Otto's savory food is good, the gelato is-- as AV puts it-- "truly special." I've eaten a lot of ice cream in my day, and Otto's gelato still blows me away.

DZ's gelato, representative of the three of us

So once again, Otto keeps its three Offset Spatula rating. Some good, some bad, overall pleasant, and worth returning to. I'm sure we'll be back, if only for the gelato.

One Fifth Avenue, at Eighth Street

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