Posts Tagged ‘risotto’

Tomasso Trattoria’s Hits and Misses

I’ve been to Tomasso Trattoria in Southborough, MA, a few times before to enjoy their fresh spin on Italian cuisine.  The restaurant offers several different courses and portion sizes and encourages customers to order as few or as many courses as they like (one to six courses) and to share dishes.  Given these options, the restaurant has the potential to serve as a spot to linger over several courses, or to simply enjoy cocktails and appetizers.

We arrived and despite having made reservations, we were seated in a very cramped area near the kitchen.  We, and nearby diners, were all told that there was a birthday party in the larger portion of the dining room.  The hostesses were clearly aware that it was subpar seating, yet they continued to seat diners with reservations in uncomfortable quarters.  One couple nearby was seated at a counter abutting the kitching that was more like bar seating; they were not moved or accomodated despite their clear distaste for their cramped stool seating.  They didn’t stay long.   Throughout the meal, servers bumped into us in order to serve nearby tables and jostled our table.  It was a bit claustrophobic to say the least.

Despite our disappointing seating situation, we were ready to enjoy several small plates and desserts.  The meal started strong with appetizers of Fontina in Carozza (fried fontina cheese served with salsa verde), Polpette (meatballs), and Suppli (fried spinach risotto balls with cheese). 

The fontina cheese was perfeclty melted and oozing out of a perfectly fried crunchy outer coating.  It was served with a pleasing salsa verde that did not overpower the mild cheese with its sweet onions and herbs.  The Polpette were equally great.  I’m not a huge meatball lover, but Tomasso could convert me with their perfectly tender beef and pork meatballs served with a lovely chunky tomato sauce and sharp parmesan gratings.  They were perfectly seasoned and not at all dry.  The Suppli were fried balls of perfectly al dente risotto with spinach and tallegio cheese.  The flavors were well balanced and the suppli were appropriately moist and dense inside.  The appetizers were a good value at $5 to $6 each, with decent portions provided.

We moved on to small plates, or Primi Piatti.  The dishes we ordered, Risotto al Funghi (risotto with mushrooms) and Ravioli con Uovo (egg filled ravioli), were $11 and $12, respectively.  Relative to the appetizers, these dishes were surprisingly expensive with much less food than expected.  The Risotto was a bit too al dente for my taste and a bit on the salty side, but very flavorful with strong red wine and mushroom flavors throughout.  The Ravioli was in fact one ravioli, albeit a large one.  Given that the restaurant encourages sharing, it was surprising to receive one large ravioli that was very difficult to split.  As soon as I cut into the ravioli, egg yolk seeped everywhere.  The ravioli was tasty with inital flavors of black truffle followed by creamy mascarpone and egg flavors that mingled nicely on the palate.

I also enjoyed a glass of Montepulciano that was full-bodied and a little dry, while my husband had a cabernet sauvignon-merlot-sangiovese blend that was lighter and fruity.

After enjoying several small plates, we were excited to move on to dessert.  We split an assortment of biscotti, semifreddo and mascarpone gelato.  The biscotti arrived in abundance and included traditional biscotti and other Italian cookies including a lemon cookie with fennel seeds, a strawberry jam filled sugar cookie, and a nutella sandwich cookie.  Some were a little dry, but most were very good and the variety was excellent.  The semifreddo, which literally translated means half-frozen, is a frozen treat that is icier and less creamy than ice cream.  Ours was served layered with mocha semifreddo, white and chocolate cake, and raspberry filling.  It was interesting with some nice flavors, but not exceptional.  The gelato of the day was mascarpone, but tasted more like an ice cream.  More surprisingly, we could not detect mascarpone flavors at all – instead the gelato tasted like a very strong Amaretto ice cream, which was incredibly disappointing.

While enjoying our desserts, the manager approached our table full of questions and concerns about the semifreddo.  He explained that he had hired a new pastry chef and was trying out some new desserts, including the semifreddo.  He displayed a surprising lack of confidence about the nearly completed semifreddo on our table and was concerned that it might be too dry, or just disappointing.  I admitted that the cake was a bit dry, but overall, we really enjoyed the semifreddo.  I went on to ask about the gelato, which we were wholly confused by.  I explained that the waitress had told us that it would be mascarpone gelato, but that it tasted like Amaretto.  He explained that the chefs fold Amaretto in to the mascarpone gelato, then glanced at our still full melting bowl of gelato and scurried away.  It was pretty clear that we had finished our biscotti and semifredo and avoided the overpowering Amaretto gelato.  Amaretto was far too strong a flavor to pair with the mild mascarpone.  We were disappointed that he didn’t address the issue.  Worse, several waitstaff scurried by, asked if we were done, and cleared the rest of the dishes.  While we waited a significant amount of time for our check to arrive and be taken care of, our gelato sat and sat, melting into an unappetizing yellow pool of liquid.  Nobody asked if there was a problem with it, and nobody seemed to want to remove it, either.  It became a comical annoyance.  Our waitress was polite but seemed slightly put out and/or annoyed.

All in all, the meal started strong but became slightly more disappointing by the course, with inconsistent service throughout.


Greatness at Grafton Street

Opposites often attract and work well together, as evidenced by Grafton Street, a marriage of bar food and fine dining in an upscale pub environment.  My husband and I ate there for the first time on Saturday night to celebrate some personal milestones.

Grafton Street has clearly found success in Harvard Square; we made reservations nearly a week before and time slots were already limited.  We arrived to find a bustling, trendy restaurant and bar within walking distance from the Harvard T stop (on the red line).  The crowd in Grafton Street was an eclectic mix ranging from young couples on early dates to groups of middle-aged friends catching up.  I enjoyed the atmosphere, although the proximity of the bar to the restaurant area was a little distracting, mostly because of the TVs.

Given that we were celebrating, there were no-holds barred in ordering up several courses of food, and, of course, fun cocktails to wash the food down with.  Grafton Street has a nice list of beers on draft,  a decent wine list, and several unique cocktails.  I ordered a drink that I now unfortunatly forget the name of (and cocktails aren’t listed on the website); I can say that it was a mix of sparkling wine, fresh raspberries and some other fun libations.  It was served in a small champagne flute, but other than the portion being smaller than hoped for, it was good.  It was less sweet than expected – actually pleasingly tart.  My husband ordered a sangria which had nice, complex flavors of fruit and wine.

We started our meal with Roasted Pear Salad and One Magnificent Cheese.  The Roasted Pear Salad had an excellent dressing and the pears were cooked to perfection.  The generous slice of Great Hill Blue Cheese didn’t hurt, either.  One Magnificent Cheese was as advertised – magnificent!  It was a large wedge of Lamb Chopper sheeps’ milk cheese served with honey, candied walnuts, and grilled bread.  The cheese was slightly dry to bite the way that a good parmesan is, but was much creamier in the mouth with a slightly sharp consistency that paired perfectly with the sweet honey and nuts.  (Can you tell that I love a good cheese?)  My cheese reverie was interrupted by our dinner entrees arriving earlier than anticipated, leading us to feel a bit rushed.

For the main course, I had Pan-Roasted Duck Breast which was cooked in a pomegranate reduction and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  On the side was a sweet-potato and confit hash mixed with spinach (I had expected the spinach to be a separate side from the hash, but it worked together).   My entree included three perfectly cooked medium-rare slices of tender duck breast, and one leg (another surprise).  The duck had the perfect amount of fat to flavor it but it wasn’t overly fatty and it had a wonderful flavor.  The pomegranate seeds added a nice texture that popped in the mouth.  The sweet potato-spinach hash was alright but not evenly seasoned – some bites were very salty, and some lacked seasoning altogether.  I also split a side of mushroom risotto (it was a gluttonous meal) with my husband and it had the same inconsistent seasoning – some bites of the risotto were offensively salty and altogether it wasn’t a very good side dish.  The risotto wasn’t creamy or soft enough and it was overwhelmed by a very heavy gravy-like sauce. 

My husband was perhaps smarter than me on this evening and ordered a lighter meal of a Cuban sandwich with fries.  The fries were downright disappointing – not crisp enough on the outside, and rather mealy on the inside.  My husband liked his Cuban but found the aioli was not spread evenly leading him to feel like each segment of his sandwich was of a different variety.  The mustard-seed aioli and pickles alternatingly overwhelmed the rest of the sandwich to me, but I’m not a Cuban aficionado like my husband (who would have preferred less of the spicy aioli). 

This meal would not have been complete to me without dessert.  We split the flourless chocolate cake.  The menu stated that it was served with coffee ice cream and a coffee-white chocolate chip cookie, but our cake came – without warning – with mint chip ice cream and a cookie that was more like a shortbread sandwich with chocolate filling.  All three elements were delicious, but they did not complement one another.  The mint was too sweet to pair with the cake and the shortbread just introduced a buttery element that didn’t work.  However, the cake was wonderful, it was rich like a typical flourless chocolate cake but slightly less dense and creamier.  I really enjoyed the soft texture and dark chocolate flavor.

Service was good and our meal came to approximately $100 after tax and tip.  While Grafton Street fell short on a few items, I would definitely make a return trip to this Harvard Square establishment.  Next time, I look forward to trying the pub fare with a good draft beer.