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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maialino (New York, NY)

Inside Maialino From the Entrance

Sixty degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect outside temperature for eating lamb chop, rabbit, suckling pig, roasted vegetables and plates of decadent pasta with lots of guanciale. All summer long we've been walking by Maialino on our way to restaurants with lighter fare -- dosa or avial around the corner in Little India, sushi at 15 East -- but on a recent, chilly autumn evening, after sharpening some hockey skates near Union Square and buying a pumpkin at the farmers' market, we were finally ready to face up to the season.

When we dropped by Maialino around 7 p.m., there was a half hour wait for a table, although seats were available at the bar, at the communal table, or at the two small pub-style tables by the coat room, immediately. We went with one of the tables by the coat room, where we could hear one another speak more easily. The tradeoff was a slight sense of being in Siberia: It sometimes took a while for wait staff to remember we were there. But the food was worth any minor waits and as with all Danny Meyer restaurants, servers were warm and friendly.

We started with one of the finest bar snacks I think the city has to offer: grilled chicken heart on rosemary skewers.
These were both simple and amazing. Slices of heart were beautifully seasoned with just a hint of heat and cooked very rare -- their perfect freshness stood up to this kind of preparation -- resulting in morsels that were both very tender and chewy in that distinctly heart-y sort of way. The flavors popped, especially with a light squeeze of lemon.

Chicken Hearts on Rosemary Skewers

An antipasti of polpo e patate / octopus, potatoes, celery & lemon was also very nicely made, though served a touch too cold. Unlike a similar dish we had at Recette, recently, this version was well balanced and not overly acidic, though lemon flavors were assertive. Octopus was tender, maybe just slightly overboiled in parts. Thin slices of celery added a nice crunch and textural contrast to the soft polpo and potatoes.

Polpo e Patate

We also ordered a starter off the contorni menu, the topinambur / roasted sunchokes & Sicilian almonds. This was another simple, but glorious, dish. Sunchokes were a bit too oily for health, but definitely not too oily for deliciousness, and had been roasted until sweet and fragrant. Almonds were well roasted, not at all soft from contact with the moisture in the dish, and highlighted the nuttiness inherent in the sunchoke. 

Topinambur

Justin ordered the garganelli with braised rabbit, green olives & rosemary as his main course. He loved the texture of the pasta, which he said was fresh and had been cooked to a perfect al dente. The sauce was very rich and flavorful, studded with whole nodes of sweet garlic, rustically pitted olives (apparently done by hand rather than using a pitter). I've read some complaints about the portion sizes on sites like menupages.com. Even without both a primi and secondi, Justin, a moderately hearty eater, found this course very filling because of its richness. 

Garganelli with Braised Rabbit

My main was the zuppa d’arzilla / seared skate wing & romanesco soup, which included delicate, flakey pieces of skate in a tomato-y broth, served over romanesco cauliflower and tomatoes. The soup, a classic Roman dish beloved as a Friday meal among observant Catholics, was a tad too salty. I didn't notice the intense salinity at first, but it caught up to me by the time I finished. Skate was very fresh, as were the nicely cooked, flavorful vegetables (hiding under the skate in the picture), which balanced the dish nicely. The broth was gorgeous, rich with the flavor of vegetables and skate.

Zuppa d'Arzilla

We were, unfortunately, too full for dessert this time. (I think the saltiness of the zuppa d'arzilla did me in, since I had to chase the food with a great deal of water.) But that just means I'll need to make a return visit -- and soon. Chef Nick Anderer clearly oversees a highly competent kitchen.


2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010-5405
(212) 777-2410
www.maialinonyc.com/


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