Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Siena Tavern ...

It's not as though Siena Tavern needs any more good press. It appears to be doing just fine.

But last night was my first visit. And Doreen's phone takes really large photographs – that they are not perfectly focused is on me – and while I am not usually the type to take pictures of my food before I eat it, I am so, so glad that I did, because, honest to God, one of the dishes on the table was one of the best dishes I have ever had in my life.

Arturo, our server, suggested it.

And now I am forever grateful to him for introducing me to coccoli. What is that, you ask? From the menu: "crispy dough, stracchino cheese, prosciutto di parma, truffle honey."

Now, I've had prosciutto wrapped around cheese. I've had it warm and melty. It is good. It really can't be otherwise.

But this? This dish is a revelation.

The sticky sweetness of the honey alone would be a lovely, inspired addition.

But the crispy dough? Think of profiteroles or popovers, but with more body and more taste. Now think of them hot out of the deep fryer, but not at all greasy. Now think of them split open, still steaming, and now think of a piece of the dough paired with a bit of the prosciutto, honey, and cheese.

The creaminess of the cheese and the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness and stickiness of the honey and then the soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside, warm fried dough?!

Now think of it all the way to the restaurant and order it. Pronto.

We also had the roasted beet salad, which Doreen suggested because she knew I would love it and because she's a fan of beets, too. It was tasty. And it was beautiful. But it will be a long, long time before anything in my life tops coccoli.

Behold, the antipasto masterpiece and the lovely beet salad:

The antipasto masterpiece is served on a beautiful wooden piece, reminiscent of something you'd expect to find topped with sushi, and I am very fond of the use of oval plates. I am a big fan of ovals.

We skipped cocktails and wine last night, but were perfectly content to sip water out of glasses made out of recycled green wine bottles. We were more interested in experiencing the food as purely as possible on our inaugural trip. (We will so, so, so be back. And I'm sure lots of things pair well with wine.)

Next, we shared the truffle mushroom pizza: "roasted wild mushrooms, garlic cream, mozzarella, white truffle oil."

Arturo asked if we'd like Parmesan and/or crushed red pepper flakes. I wanted the former, Doreen wanted the latter. I didn't take a picture when they arrived, but I was delighted that they were served in quarter-cup measuring cups. Genius. What a simple way to enable us to sprinkle them onto the slices.

Of course, anything topped with truffle oil really needn't be amended, but it was fresh Parmesan, ground in a food processor, I presume, not grated. Nice texture, not cheese dust.

And behold, the truffle mushroom pizza:

I ate almost all of my crust. In the name of research, of course. Crust is a very important component of pizza and too many people don't bother to develop the flavor. It's not just a conveyance for toppings. It's part of the dish. Chef Fabio's is good. It supports the toppings, both as a complement flavor-wise and literally. It has body. Structure. A nice bit of chew.

The gelato offerings were impressive and varied. I could have easily selected four flavors that I simply had to try, but I'm glad that we only ordered two, as the scoops were more than ample for someone who just wanted a few tastes. The hazelnut was outstanding, a lovely bookend to the meal that began so auspiciously. The pistachio was good, too. But the hazelnut was better. But then, I am partial to hazelnut gelato. It is my first-choice gelato. Most things hazelnut are my first-choice choices.

And it is surely worth mentioning the interior. We sat at a rectangular table for four, with an iron, chyrsanthemum base and a tabletop composed of pieces of wood set on 45-degree angles. Like a parquet floor, of sorts. Our chairs were insanely comfortable, tufted, buttery-soft leather* barrel chairs. (Can leather be honed? If so, the leather on the chairs and booths are honed. *It may well be synthetic – that would make sense in a restaurant – but the effect is spot on.) The space is laid out on several levels, so we were on the main floor, next to a floor-to-ceiling window, while right across from us was a series of half-round booths, also tufted. And behind us – visible to me from my perspective – was yet another level, set off by steel railings, with the booth tufting making its way up the wall and across the ceiling, and flanked by truly spectacular sconces. Empty frames line the walls. Edison bulbs are suspended over the half-round booths. Really well thought out. It invites lingering, even amidst the bustle.

So go. The hours are ridiculous in their accessibility:

Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2am
Sat: 10am-3am
Sun: 10am-2am

And you can see a nice slideshow of images here.

Go. Go. Just go.

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