Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just go straight to the bomboloni at A Voce

I've been wanting to go to A Voce Columbus ever since it opened. Why? It got good reviews, it was Italian food, it wasn't prix fixe, it was in the neighborhood (kind of)... it was the quadruple threat. It's been a long time in coming, but when Mom and Dad were in town, I finally made it over there. And I wasn't disappointed.

Mom, Dad, LM, and the bro and I were led to a five-person table in the middle of the modern, classy dining room. We all had a little bit of trouble with the chairs, which are bizarre swivel-y office-style chairs (whaa?). But we settled in, and after about a million menu-related questions for our waiter, we finally placed our order.

First, the wine: for the sake of the Wine Century Club, each of us got a glass of a different kind, with Mom and Dad splitting one. For them, it was a glass of grenache and syrah rose blend; for LM, a pinot grigio rose; for the bro, a moscato d'asti; and for me, a garganega-soave blend. This was tangy and a bit tropical-tasting, good with food and refreshing. And for those counting, I'm now up to NINE varietals for the WCC!


But really, how was the food? First, phenomenal homemade focaccia with whipped ricotta flecked with red chili flakes. The bread was soft and oily in all the good ways; the only thing it was missing was a shower of coarse salt on the crust. The ricotta was some of the most addictive stuff I've ever had. I couldn't stop eating it, first with bread, then with just the tip of my knife. Nom nom nom.

Acre of delicious, delicious bread

For appetizers, Mom and Dad split the "Condiggion" salad, with gem lettuce, friselle, cucumber, and bottarga. Despite avowing to not liking 50% of the ingredients between the two of them, they both really enjoyed the salad, and it's worth noting the kitchen split it onto two plates without even being asked.

Half a salad

The bro went for a starter of one of the verdure options, cauliflower with almonds and golden raisins. It was surprisingly zesty and bright, and the bro really liked it, especially once he got to the juicy bits at the bottom of the bowl. His words, not mine.

Cruciferous veggies

There was a significant wait before the entrees came, during which I mainlined a bunch more ricotta. But the wait was worth it. For his entree, the bro went for the Maiale, pork chops with roasted abalone mushrooms, arugula, and grilled lemons. He loved it, and it was a huge portion.

Double chop

Mom went for the Pesce Spada, swordfish with marinated eggplant, basil, capers and chilies. She also gave two thumbs up, noting that it's often difficult to cook swordfish well, but the kitchen nailed it.

LM got the Pollo al Mattone, fennel and chili marinated grilled chicken, tuscan greens, and gigante white beans. Once again, this was an enormous portion, and she enjoyed it while noting that the chicken got almost a bit chalky by the end. Again, her words, not mine.

Chalky chicken?

Dad chose the ravioli di caprino, which was prosciutto and goat cheese-filled pasta with leeks, pistachios, and parmesan. He said it was over-salted and looked sort of disgruntled.

Salty pasta

My choice was the funghi al forno, an appetizer of roasted trumpet royal mushrooms, fonduta, mache, and hazelnuts. This wasn't at all what I was expecting-- it was much lighter, which on balance was good. But it also wasn't as hearty or decadent. The mushrooms were lightly cooked, which meant they didn't quite get to the point where mushrooms get deliciously caramelized and lose their woodsy funk. The fonduta was tasty but also a bit mild. There were only three hazelnut halves on the plate, so that didn't add too much. Overall, given my high hopes for this dish, I was a bit disappointed, but I think I also just ordered wrong.

Very pretty, at least!

No matter, that left room for dessert. Mom and I both chose the chocolate chip semifreddo, which was chocolate chip mousse, light and pure-flavored with little specks of crunchy chocolate, already melting around the edges and gently frozen at the interior. There was a cocoa pizzelle topping things off, not too sugary with some good crunchy texture. And as a sweet surprise, there was a shallow moat of bitter orange sauce for flavor contrast—just tart enough to wake up the taste buds.

Simple but spot-on

LM and the bro shared the bomboloni, A Voce's signature dessert. Oh MAN were these phenomenal. The texture of these yeast-raised donuts, each between the size of a golfball and a softball, was so fantastically light, it was like sinking into a soft pillow every time the fork hit the confection. Add a dollop of custard in the center of each, a healthy sprinkling of sugar around each freshly-fried exterior, and some bittersweet chocolate sauce for dipping, and you've got yourself some of the best donuts I've ever come across.


As a final freebie, there were confectioner's-sugar-dusted strips of fried dough brought to the table with the check. These tasted exactly how you'd expect they'd taste: like fried egg roll skins. A nice thought, but a little down-market from the rest of the meal, no?

Fried dough.

While the meal overall had its ups and downs, A Voce Columbus deserves four Offset Spatulas. The cooking is thoughtful and interesting, a nice twist on the old favorites you find around town. The atmosphere is sleek and upscale yet still really welcoming. It's a place I'd certainly recommend to others, and I hope I get to return at some point to sample some of the other delightful-looking options on the menu.

A Voce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle, Third Floor

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