Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Taranta, North End, Boston

This past weekend my family celebrated my up-coming birthday by taking me out to dinner at Taranta in the North End. Taranta is one of those places that I have only heard good things about and so I was really looking forward to enjoying their offerings. It is an Italian/Peruvian place, so it encompasses all of the wonderful flavors of the Mediterranean.

I realized that we were really in for a treat very early on in our meal. As soon as we had sat down, my sister noticed a bit of something, lingering on her wine glass from its previous use. She gave it a funny look, and I'm sure earmarked it as a first request for when our server arrived. Even before our server had arrived though, another helpful member of the staff had noticed the incident, and had already replaced her glass. Small touches like this, noticing discomfort or concern of a patron, is something that is invaluable in a restaurant. It shows great attention to detail, and one that you can hope is carried forth into the food.

We started with two appetizers, one their mussels prepared with Marsala wine, Italian bacon, and shallots, the second was shrimp and broccoli rabe over crostini. I felt as though the mussels were a great showcase to the Mediterranean influence of the restaurant which would make labeling it as simply Italian, fully incorrect. The Marsala wine was a delicious throw back to Sicilian cooking, which is fully different from Northern, or even Southern Italian cuisine. The sweetness of this wine was beautifully offset by the smokey bacon. Shallots were the perfect ingredient to round this out. Though they are normally grown in Asia, they are a symbol, at least to me, of French cuisine, as garlic is a symbol of peasant Italian cooking. The addition of shallots here, rounded out the enforcement that the chef was looking for influences from the surrounding cuisines. In return, the shrimp and broccoli rabe were perfect. Served with a grilled crostini that soaked up the cooking juices from the sauteing of the shrimp and rapi, it was incredibly well flavored. I have found that broccoli rabe can be difficult to cook, and its inherent bitter flavor can be overpowering, however here it was very nicely prepared, and they had been able to balance out the bitter flavor.

I decided to try something new for my main course, and having never had trout before, I elected to have their trout which was served grilled, with saffron butter, and with pallares, peruvian yellow potatoes, and wilted greens. Overall, this dish was extremely well flavored, light and yet indulgent with the richness of the saffron butter and the potatoes. The pallares, which are lima butter beans, were a delicious addition to the dish as they simply enhanced that butter flavor. Now, perhaps I should have been aware of this, but I was not anticipating the trout to be served whole, unfortunately the presence of the fish' head on my plate was a bit disconcerting to me. However, the flavor of the fish was delicious and it served to be a very tasty meal despite its presentation. I would have enjoyed there being more of the wilted greens however, as I only had a few even after I went digging for them. To be honest, I didn't even have enough of them to be able to figure out just what kind of "greens" they were.

I have to say, our service throughout the evening was top notch. From the very start with the glass replacement, to the description of the specials, to her knowledge of the menu and wine list, to her simple allowance of us to dominate her table for the entire evening, our server was fantastic. The meals were delicious, as all of my dining companions agreed, and we were each able to linger over coffee, port and sambuca to close out our meal.

I must say, Taranta was a birthday dinner to remember.

1 comment:

Chris Rossetti said...

I've tried many restaurants in the North End, but I've never been to Taranta. After reading your exquisite review, I will visit it soon. You have a vivid recollection which makes for interesting reading.


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