Sunday, May 27, 2007

On the Road #3: Ristorante Amarone (or What Chinese Food?)

I used my Frommer’s guide to look for a good place for dinner before the show. I had two choices, Chinese and Ethiopian (the latter I found by myself on the internet – I was looking for African food because I just don’t eat that much of it and I figured New York, of all places, would have it). I settled on the closest restaurant to my theater, the Grand Sichuan. There are several branches throughout the city. It was about 6:30, and I got to the restaurant all hungry.

Here’s what the restaurant looks like today (look in the yellow box):

So it’s now closed. I started roaming all over the street on the way back to the theater to find something cheap – and of course, the closer it got to curtain time, the higher a price I was willing to tolerate. There was a Greek tapas bar (!) – but the cheapest tapa was $9 (no Tapas Teatro this place), so, ah, no. I passed by Spanish, Brazilian, Mexican, Southern – all more than I wanted to spend. And, um, no, I wasn’t desperate enough to duck into McDonald’s.

I finally found a place near the corner that I needed to turn down. The Ristorante Amarone looked good enough and it looked as if there were cheap enough things that I could make a dinner out of what was on the menu. The waitress seated me at the bar of this pretty charming establishment and gave me a menu. After a short while I settled for the cheapest thing on the menu, the pasta puttanesca in the Pasta section (a dish with capers, anchovies, olives, tomatoes – if done right it makes me wince it’s so powerful). I immediately ordered a Diet Coke (no slow service there) and a red wine - the waitress helped me find a good wine, and let me try their Shiraz, which she recommended. After the sour face I made, she offered me a different one, even though I said it was alright if she didn’t. The second one wasn’t great either – but again, I’m not really a wine person.

Perhaps I’m not a puttanesca person either. The food came out piping hot, which I cannot say for most Italian food I order. But this dish was, well, forgettable. The pasta was pasta, they didn’t mess that up. There were huge chunks of tomato. Red, grainy, watery, flavorless tomato. (Was this a beefsteak? Those big balls of tomato-flavored goo should not be allowed in any restaurant, much less a fancy one.) Their tomato had a little more flavor than most beefsteaks. Plus, the anchovies were hard, the capers were barely noticeable, and the sauce only congealed at the bottom, where it tasted kind of like an Indian murgh makhani (chicken in butter-tomato) sauce. The only thing that stood out was the olives. And the olives should not have to carry this dish alone. At least it was only $10, relatively cheap for a pre-theater dinner

The dessert of the day was an irritating $8, but this one was actually worth the price. It was two small cannoli, with chocolate on each end and a cream filling in the middle that was better than most cannoli creams I have ever had. Usually most cannoli have horribly grainy creams, but this was very smooth and rich. It was just very good, all buried in little chocolate shavings that melted in your mouth. It was the only memorable thing about this meal!

After the puttanesca, the cannoli, two Diet Cokes and the wine (and complimentary, though tough, bread), my bill came to $36. I left $42 and went on my way. There was some congenial and helpful service there. The dessert was delicious. I just wish my entree had been better.