Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Chic Experience at Scarpetta Toronto

We don't often head out for fancy Italian, French is more our cuisine of choice, but I had a craving for some good carbs last night. There were a couple restaurants that had opened in the last year that I had been interested in checking out but never made it was a toss up between Enoteca Sociale and Scarpetta. I was craving some good tagliatelle, and Enoteca Sociale's offering with goat ragu was definitely calling my name; unfortunately, they were full for the night (with a chance of walk-in availability of course). But we were quite hungry and didn't want to risk having to search out another restaurant should it be we went to Scarpetta instead for some New York charm.

I've stayed at the Thompson Hotel before for a stagette, where Scarpetta is housed, it's a swanky hotel that exudes the uptown, sophisticated New York vibe it's going for. I was always a little skeptical but the Thompson has done a fine job. It is definitely a very chic crowd. Apparently, this crowd is there 7 days a week, which amazes me more...where do they come from??

Scarpetta is an extension of the chic charm of the Thompson, not unexpectedly of course. I was amazed by the number of service people on much there probably wasn't enough for everyone to to do, since I noticeably saw them sitting around, but I'm not one to complain about dedication to service. I'm not going to lie, I found there to be an air of snobbery, but it was the food we were there for and for that, I couldn't wait. We had previewed the menu online and there were a couple items I already had in mind.

Before our starters even came we were served a great assorted bread basket. I was most excited by the bread that kind of looked like a cinnamon bun with layers of prociutto (or some other ham) in between the layers. It was sooo good! I bypassed the rest of the bread although it looked very good...had to save room for my main starches!

Yellowtail Sashimi: it was ok, nothing spectacular. I'm not sure why I decided to have this, because choosing sushi in an Italian restaurant doesn't really make sense, but I must have come across a couple reviews that had mentioned it, rendering it a recognizable item on the menu I felt like we had to try. I've had "fusion" sushi/sashimi dishes before at other restaurants where added ingredients really are great, but in this case it wasn't anything spectacular. The fish was certainly very fresh, but the oil it was served with was not to my liking. I just prefer good, fresh fish if it's going to be simple. It wasn't BAD, but I can't say it was my favourite or something I'd have to have again.

Raw Waygu Beef: Raw beef is a favourite of mine so of course we decided to give it a try. A tight cluster of tartare was served with wild greens, mushrooms and a side of hazelnuts. I don't know what else it was made with but it was really delicious! The beef was very fresh, firm (I hate mushy raw beef) and prepared with simple accentuating ingredients. Even Tony enjoyed the accompanying greens and he would normally never choose salad :) I thoroughly enjoyed this modern dish.

Polenta with Truffled Mushrooms: I can't say I would have picked this dish right off the menu, other than the obvious attraction of "truffled mushrooms." But I did stumble upon a review that claimed having the polenta was like he had died and gone to heaven. That is a pretty big statement! Thankfully, it did not disappoint! The polenta came in a little bowl, and the truffled mushrooms in its own accompanying pot. Our server spooned a small amount on the pollen, and we of course drenched some more on our own plates. I was wonderful, and I liken it to having high-end, adult mashed potatoes and gravy....same kind of comfort and satisfaction. This was Tony's favourite appy while mine was the beef, but I would definitely want to order this again, one of those great dishes you can not get enough of.

Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli: Little triangle pockets of duck and foie gras made up this dish. I loved the one bit triangles, although it was hard to discern if I was tasting more duck or foie gras. It a very distinct taste, almost like duck egg. Although it was very good, and certainly very unique, I'm not sure I could have finished a whole plate by myself - probably would have been too filling.

Rabbit Tagliatelle: Since this is what I was craving, I was immediately drawn to this item on the menu. It did not disappoint me - the tagliatelle thick. I really enjoyed it but not sure if it was actually fresh pasta, it didn't have that lightness that fresh pasta, quickly cooked and ready has. It was a little more starchy and heavier than fresh pasta usually has. In any case, it was still very good, I actually quite liked the big thick noodles, and the braised rabbit was exactly what I wanted, and even a little lighter than I expected so it all came together nicely. I easily could have eaten the whole dish, but I did spare Tony some to try!

Coconut Panna Cotta: This was truly delightful, made with caramelized pineapple bits (amazing!) and served in a guava soup (again, amazing!), and topped with a sorbet to refresh your taste buds should it be a litle sweet, and also a really good deep fried coconut crisp. Sometimes, crisps served on dessert are a bit stale and soggy, but this was crunchy and very good! All the elements worked nicely together, making for a wonderfully refreshing dessert to finish a great meal.

There was also the option of assorted cheeses, which I was too full to completely indulge, but like any good restaurant the server was happy to bring me the one cheese that did catch my eye, a cow/goat/sheep soft cheese. It was served with a simple fruit chutney that perfectly complemented the taste. Was great! It also came with a bubbly biscuit (lifesaver like in shape) which I didn't have much of since I was alreayd full and didn't feel like it added anything.

Scarpetta was a good splurge. The food was unique, delicious and beautifully served, just what I expect from a high-end dining establishment. I was previously concerned it was overrated but I am thoroughly satisfied with its quality and appeal. This is definitely a place to celebrate a special occasion...or if you're like us, just randomly want a nice night out with some good, specially prepared food. A couple of watch outs - the tables on left side of the restaurant when you enter leave the person sitting on the banquette facing the window AND the parking lot across the street, I had some bright lights in my eyes a couple times...not bliding but a bit annoying. I did appreciate, however, that they did not fill all the tables in the section, so you actually had some privacy when dining. And speaking of the parking across the street, it was not readily available as we had expected and that lot charges $15, same as valet. We did find street parking a block or so away which was only $4 something...the street parking right by the lot was mysteriously blocked by pillions.

Scarpetta (@ Thompson Hotel Toronto)
550 Wellington


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