Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tasty leopard food

Once upon a time, there was a restaurant called Danal. It was a tiny place snuggled in the first floor of a brownstone on 10th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues. The atmosphere was intimate, the food delicious, and the wine list excellent. I first went there in 1994 and returned as often as possible. It short, Danal was my favorite restaurant in New York.

Then they moved.

I've not been to the new location, but I've had reports from reliable sources that it is not nearly as intimate or inviting.

So I'm afraid to go back. But Nature abhors a vacuum and provides alternatives.

Some time ago (a little over a year, methinks), Susan and I made plans to take in the Saturday night Sinatra-only show at The Carnegie Club. I did want to grab a bite to eat somewhere in the neighborhood before the performance, so I did a bit of research and came across a handsome place called Il Gattopardo (apparently Italian for The Leopard; go figure). While not as intimate as Danal, it did have possibilities, so I made a reservation, fingers crossed.

A home run in every sense.

The food was spectacular, the service some of the best I've had in New York, and a wine list that would bring even a minor wine enthusiast to tears. I've since made several trips back, including a GU Club meeting. It's that good. So much so that Susan specifically requested that we go there for her birthday. Not being great with names, she affectionately refers to it as "The White Restaurant" (the walls of the main dining room are painted plain white; some might say this is stark, but I would say elegantly simple).

So we arrived at 8pm last evening and sat down to enjoy a very pleasant 2 1/2 hour meal.

Susan began with a friseé salad with pancetta, olive oil, lemon, crushed red pepper and gorgonzola crouton, while I indulged in the white truffle risotto. I was especially pleased when the risotto arrived unadorned. The waiter followed a brief moment later with a white truffle on a bed of sea salt, which he proceeded to grate over the risotto; very yummy. And if Susan's pauses (complete with a closed-eye look of bliss) were any indication, her salad was a lovely experience as well.

We accompanied the appetizer course with a 2001 Supertuscan, San Fabiano Calcinaia's "Cerviolo". Lots of delicious cherry and cedar notes here, along with a finish a mile long. Delicious.

Having slowly worked our way through this tasty introduction, Susan moved onto the Colorado rack of lamb in herb crust with potato croquette and sautéed spinach, served with fruit. I requested the pappardelle with rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms. Again, spectacular results, aided by a 2003 Amarone Della Valpolicella from Fumanelli (a big-bodied, raisin-y wine with very little acid; bone dry and delicious).

After a 15 minute break to degust, we polished off the meal with a mascarpone and espresso Semifreddo with chocolate sauce and a glass each of Dow's 20 Year Tawny port; a fitting end for a scrumptious meal.

So if you're in the mood for sumptuous dining (and are willing to lay down the coin for it...), definely check out Il Gattopardo, my new favorite restaurant in New York.

Further choices from the tasting menu:

Godflesh - In All Languages
(one disc of hits, one disc of rarities; all face stomping)

Godflesh - Us And Them
(their most experimental of all)

Mississippi John Hurt - 1928 Sessions
(roomful of blues)

Stockfinster - Car Crash)
(because all becomes music)

Twine - Violets
(broken and lovely)


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