Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Another Great Meal at Dante
Returning to a great food find brings the anticipation of fondly remembered dishes, service and atmosphere. But there can also be the faint hesitation that the second time might not match the memories. We had a wonderful meal in August when we went to Dante in Cambridge. (Click here for the post). In fact, a recent visit proved that it is pretty fantastic. Overall, we were struck again by the wonderful location (a perfect view of the Boston skyline and the Charles River), the excellent service and the delicious, well-crafted food.
Again, we were impressed by the service. Our waiter, Johnny was warm and disarming. It was clear that he enjoys his job and knows the food. He answered our questions informatively without being pretentious. We appreciated his honesty and his knowledge.
The food, a twist on "modern Italian", was delicious. Each plate was made of high quality ingredients that were served in an understated way-never being too fussy. We loved the new starters, known as as sfizi. (You can easily make a meal of these and they are currently being offered for $1.00 each between 4pm and 7 pm, Monday through Friday). We had a great assortment of four which complimented each other. We started with buratta cheese (a cream filled mozzarella) with candied pistachios which was one of the most wonderful things I have eaten. The cheese is homemade in house and was so tender. Somehow it was completely decadent without being too rich. But it was the candied pistachios that put it over the top. I could eat this again and again. The funghi (confit of wild mushrooms) was also delicious. The oil was so good that we mopped it up with the bread. Next we had two different types of bruchetta: pepperonata (sweet and sour peppers) and pickled eggplant. Again they were perfectly cooked and savory. The final was listed as "roast pork loin on tuna sauce" and, honestly, I am still surprised by how much I enjoyed this. The sauce was creamy without being overpowering. The dish was cool and light-a great contrast to the other dishes.
Dante is currently offering a 3 course special for $35.00. So, as part of our meal, we really began with the spaghetti a la chitarra. It was served carbonara style with incredible guanciale (air-cured pork jowl!). I loved the texture of the pasta, toothsome and hearty. The guanciale added another layer to the dish with a smoky, sweet, chewy taste.
For my main dish, I had hake from Maine roasted and served with both artichoke chips and artichokes braised, Roman style with white wine. The chips were earthy and crisp while the fish was perfectly cooked and light. My husband returned to the hanger steak, which is pictured at the top of this post (a testament to how much he enjoyed it both times). The frites (french fries with garlic and parsley) are fantastic and although we enjoyed the truffle ketchup it is can be overpowering after the first few bites. Our waiter highlighted the homemade lemon thyme aioli which was even more delicious and a better compliment for the overall richness of the dish.
For dessert we couldn't resist the fritelle pictured at the top of the post. I am truly not a donut person, but these are just incredible. They are perfectly fried and absolutely rich and tender. The four sauces, each clearly homemade are just as good-a deep dark chocolate, pure pureed raspberries, a dark caramel and my favorite, a ginger creme anglaise. (I will admit to actually being tempted to lick the plate!). They were worth every calorie.
The chocolate-chestnut semi-freddo served with homemade mint oil were very good. The texture was similar to a cross between ice cream and a frozen mousse. I would have preferred more dominance from the chestnut, but the mint was a nice contrast. The lemon panna cotta with fruit gelee was the weak point of the evening, tasting too tart.
Finally, we are also excited about the opening of Dante's next restaurant, Il Casale in Belmont, sometime this spring. The plan is for it be more rustic and to truly reflect the food of his families hometown in Candida, Italy. We will be at the new place when we can!