Yes, yes, y'all: Trufflepalooza, Locanda Verde. « blogging for burgers

Yes, yes, y'all: Trufflepalooza, Locanda Verde.

Locanda Verde trufflepalooza.  Who was there?  Yeah.  This guy (and BG)

I tried to enter the Eater giveaway contest, but to no avail.  I was honest with them.  I told them I wanted a truffle dinner for $50.  No sob story, no bullshit.  I guess honesty isn’t always the best policy.

Not discouraged, we showed up anyway, at 6.45pm.  While a reservation we did not have, we did have a will, and a way.  Out of either sheer luck or some other magic that BG has, she got us on an imaginary list, which supposedly had a table set aside for us at 8.15pm.

Yeah, right.

We went over to Bubby’s for a quick drink, to kill some time, since it was only 7pm.  I had a Jameson on the rocks, since nothing spells “good pre-dinner drink” like Jameson.  This got a good buzz going in anticipation of the truffle explosion that was about to go down inside my mouth.  We called at 7.45pm, just to see.  Eureka!  Our table was ready.

We ran over lickety-split.  BG had rapport.

We got there an the regular menus and the truffle menu was set before us.  The smell of freshly-shaven white truffles permeated the air.  I realized upon sitting down that I had never eaten at Locanda Verde on a standard night.  I had been there for the fried chicken dinner, and once prior to the HORN’s engagement night for drinks, but never just for some pasta and a salad.  Since I was about to take in some fresh white truffles, I was ok with this.

I was especially ok with this since I saw the menu at which I was staring.  If you pretended that you were sitting at Locanda Verde on December 7th, 2009, you’d be looking at this:

I made it large for legibility 🙂

Not wanting to have any regrets, we ordered the whole thing.  I mean, how can you go wrong, right?  A bottle of Pacherhof Sylvaner, and we were on our way.

Since the menu is above, I’ll just provide details by course (apologies, the pictures are a bit dark; as you may recall from the fried chicken installment, the lighting at LV is not exactly blinding.  I’ve made the pictures bigger, which may or may not help):

Starters– the mushroom ragu was good, but, to be honest, the wild mushrooms dominated the palate.  All you could really taste was the earthiness of mushroom and the richness of the egg yolk and polenta.  Not that that was a bad thing, but it was a bit overwhelming.  The white truffle flavor came through, but it could have been a bit stronger for my taste.

On the other hand, the carne cruda was a truffle explosion.  This took me back to the first steak tartare that I ever truly loved, at Alain Ducasse’s Spoon in Paris.  I had never had a steak tartare that could match that one… until now.  The truffle was dominant in flavor, but the fattiness of the meat was a perfect stage for the pungent fungi to shine.  The carne arrived with a fresh shaving of white truffle on top, which didn’t hurt, either.  Now, I think there was definitely some truffle oil in there, too, which some may consider to be a cheap move.  But in this case, it worked.  I was a fan.

It's really much better tasting than it looked, I promise.

With truffles fresh on our breath, we were then served our main courses.  The garganelle verde was a green like I had never seen before from a fresh pasta.  I was honestly not sure what to expect flavor-wise, but was pleasantly surprised by the outstanding texture.  The pasta was very fresh and light tasting, which complemented the somewhat bland richness of the braised veal.  As with the first course, there was a lack of truffle flavor, as it was hidden by the rich saltiness of the veal and the butter and the creaminess of the overall dish.

But again, as with the starter courses, I was thoroughly pleased with the ravioli.  First off, anything with the oyster of the chicken is going to do it for me.  I can barely find it, much less exclusively prepare and serve it.  Second of all, the dish was again intensely flavored with white truffles, probably with some oiled help, but also enhanced by the use of the chicken jus for the sauce and the relative lack of richness in the dish.  I have come to the conclusion that for truffles to truly shine, there needs to be a perfect balance of fat and salt  in order to let the fungus come through.  With an extreme in either direction, the truffle flavor is lost, and it makes you sad that you missed something.  However, as I said, the ravioli didn’t leave anything to be desired.  If I had only this and the tartare, I would have been just fine.

Normally, the truffles would stop at this point.  No way, hombre.  This was a THREE course truffle dinner, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime-until-they-see-the-returns-that-this-night-got-in-terms-of-the-total-number-of-covers-event.  So let’s bring on the truffle desserts.

I must admit, I was a little bit nervous when it came to desserts.  I mean, seriously?  I’ve had eggplant and chocolate (not bad), olive oil ice cream (good if made well), basil ice cream (really good if made well, à la the bent spoon in princeton, nj), and other strange desserts that I can’t remember at this moment.  But truffles?

Yes.  Truffles.

First off, truffle ice cream is an acquired taste.  Since I don’t really have a sweet tooth, it took me .2 seconds to acquire it.  I wish that the first dish had a scoop of this ice cream on it instead of the poached egg.  It was that savory.  Somehow the savoriness also made it seem like it wasn’t even cold.  I have no idea how it was even a solid, to be honest.  It just tasted like solid truffle oil with shaved truffle on top.  It had little walnut shortbread cookies and salted chestnuts with it, which only enhanced the salty milkshake quality.

But, the problem is, I can’t really say that I didn’t enjoy it.  I strangely enjoyed it a lot.  And I can’t quite pinpoint why.

The truffle-honey cake was good.  I’ll leave it at that.  I wasn’t in love with the combination of the bosc pears and whipped ricotta and truffles and cake and honey.  It felt like a salty cake.  I think this one was a stretch.  I may have been biased since I don’t really enjoy Italian-style cakes (the sight of panettone this weekend gave me the shivers and, I’m sorry, but olive oil cake is just a waste of time) but it didn’t do it for me.  It tasted like truffles, though, so I suppose it was “mission accomplished.”  And with that, my Monday night dinner was finished.

All in, I have to give it up to the boys at Locanda Verde.  They have suckered me into eating at the restaurant twice in as many months for this special dinners.  “Affordable” prix fixe menus are the hot trend du jour, and these guys are really doing it the right way.  Based on the food I got and their food costs, do I know that they are coming out ahead on $50 per head?  Of course.  Do I care?  Not really.  Will I go back to Locanda Verde?  Probably.

And that’s just good business right there.

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