Tuesday, August 19, 2008

La Morra, Brookline, Restaurant Week

Restaurant week has returned to Boston once again, and we all know what that means- some of the best restaurants in the city put together a limited menu and charge just $33.08 for a three course dinner. For many reasons- you just cant beat it. The price is right, you get to go to restaurants that you may normally not be able to, and it feels like a fantastic night out! However, there are reasons that Restaurant Week is not the best- people often complain that the food is not of the highest quality, that the chefs don't bring their "A game" and that the waitstaff isn't as attentive as they might be. There is something to be said for that. If the chef is used to creating a seasonal, fresh menu, and utilizing whatever is in season that week, and having some variety in the dishes he's preparing, then to prepare the same three entrees over and over may prove to be incredibly repetitive. However, being the food freak that I am- I cant resist hitting at least one spot in honor of the week.

Sunday night I dined at La Morra in Brookline to taste their offerings. I was very impressed with their menu to start because they had expounded on the normal three options for appetizer, three for entree and three for dessert. La Morra offered a full four course meal, with 6-7 options for each. For my appetizer I chose the Arugula and Zucchini salad with shaved Parmesan. I have been a little obsessed with the peppery qualities of arugula for quite some time now, and zucchini has been a staple of my summer diet. So to have the two together, esp with the addition of Parmesan cheese- I was quite excited about it. The salad was definitely tasty. It was well dressed without being too much, and the zucchini and the arugula nicely balanced each other. The dressing was very lemony, which was a great compliment to the pepper of the arugula, though I believe it was a bit too heavily salted. The cheese however was delicious and sturdy- just as it should have been to stand up to the bold flavors of the dressing.

My second course was a Tomato Risotto. I loved that they mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes, as well as sliced sun dried tomatoes. Together these had a really nice contrast and showed the versatility of the fruit. I'm always a fan of a chef using several different variations of the same ingredient in a single dish. However, the risotto itself was undercooked. The grains had an unsettling crunch to them and it was rather distracting to the flavor that was so lovely. Perhaps this is an example of the chef not bringing his "a game" to the restaurant week crowd, but in my estimation, if you're going to offer risotto, you should know how to cook risotto.

Third I had a hanger steak that was served with a potato gratin made with ricotta, grilled zucchini, and a salsa verde. Unfortunately, I found the entire dish flavorless. The gratin, to be honest, didn't hold a single rewarding quality. It was bland to taste, and bland to look at. A bit of parsley, or thyme, or any herb would have gone a long way with it. The steak didn't appear to have been seasoned at all, again-a little salt and pepper perhaps? It was rather dry and had nothing exciting about it. The salsa verde, which I was most excited about, was more of the same. Very little of it was served, and what was on my plate was just tasteless. I got the impression, that someone in the back had rationed out my salt intake for the evening, and used it all up in the first course. I would have been much happier had they spaced it out a bit.

For dessert, we split the tiramisu and the panna cotta with raspberry coulis. Though the presentation for the panna cotta was lacking, a big piece had been shifted out of its molded spot, the flavor and texture was delicious. Just enough vanilla bean was visible to the eye and was tasted throughout, and the raspberry coulis was perfect in addition. This was a winner of a dish. The tiramisu was also tasty. Quite a bit of rum soaked the base layer, and the fillings were nice and creamy. The heavy sprinkle of cocoa powder on top was perfect to add the chocolate factor to the dish. Dessert was delicious.

Our server was also great. He was able to speak to every dish on the menu, and provide suggestions as well as clarifications to what certain items contained. He was friendly and pleasant and made the night quite enjoyable.

However, overall, both my dining companion and I were dissatisfied with our meals. She had started with a grilled potato salad, that again- was seasoned nicely, if not too much, but she found the potatoes very tough and wondered how old they were. Unfortunately, that's not the best impression of a restaurant. I would try La Morra again in the hopes that Restaurant Week is just not the best time to go, but for now- I'm in no rush to return.

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