A Voce Madison, NYC
February 14, 2012
A Voce has a Michelin star at both its Madison Square and Columbus Circle locations. Linda and I were looking forward to good Italian cuisine when we went to the Madison Square restaurant for dinner for the first time on November 4, 2011. We ordered glasses of prosecco and looked at the menu. Bread with strong olive oil for dipping arrived.
After consulting with the sommelier, we ordered a bottle of 2005 Nada Fiorenzo “Manzola” Barbaresco.
It had good potential, but was still quite tannic and closed.
Linda’s antipasto was
roasted pork belly, prunes, tuscan kale, pine nuts, vin cotto
This was very nice, crunchy, with the flavors of the big roasted pancetta strip on top and the kale underneath balancing each other.
My starter was
Terrina di polpo
thinly sliced octopus, cerignola olives, citrus
This was good, but didn’t have the fresh octopus flavor of the almost identical dish I enjoyed earlier this year at Restaurante Don Juan in Cartagena.
Linda’s pasta was a half order of
spinach and sweetbread filled pasta, fennel, pecorino, garlic
This was superb with the flavors of the ingredients coming through subtly, but definitely.
My pasta was
Orecchiette squid ink, chilies, clams, cherry tomatoes
The black pasta “ears” were quite al dente, which almost gave the impression that they were chewy clams themselves. The chilies were nicely restrained, the flavor of the clams came through and I enjoyed the dish.
Linda’s main course was
grilled lamb porterhouse, black mission figs, fennel, pilacca, almonds
Unfortunately we didn’t ask what pilacca was, nor did the waiter who took our order think to tell us, despite the fact that it is an obscure Apulian recipe cooked and fermented specially by Al Voce chef Missy Robbins, who is very proud of it. It is based on very hot chilies. It wasn’t just in the decorative ring; there was a thick layer on top of the lamb under the fennel. It permeated the lamb with heat destroying its otherwise elegant flavor as well as that of the mild garnishes: figs, fennel and almonds. Linda didn’t eat more than a mouthful and we were not charged for it. It has, unfortunately, become quite common in the U.S. to include hot red pepper flakes or chili sauces in some dishes as if it were a normal ingredient like salt or parsley. I think that many Americans enjoy this, but we do not. It is usually an alternative to good cooking, but is sometimes, like here, included in dishes which otherwise would probably have been quite good. It also kills the palate for wine.
My secondo was
rosemary and garlic marinated chicken, baby artichokes, grilled lemons, marjoram
This is a fairly common preparation in New York Italian restaurants, but it was done very well here with crispy skin and good flavors from the herbs and garnishes.
We did not have dessert, but were served a pair of lemoncello marshmallows to finish.
Our meal was uneven with a full range from excellent to inedible. The service was good, except for the lapse in asking if we like really hot sauces. The pace was fine and the noise level not bad.