Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Suckling Pig Speaks...

I was psyched to go to Maialino recently for dinner.  It's a relatively new Danny Meyer restaurant located inside the Gramercy Hotel.  The overall experience didn't disappoint.  The restaurant was bustling the way a somewhat up-and-coming restaurant should but the atmosphere remained very comfortable and the food (although a little salty for some) was generally well-executed.

2 Lexington Avenue (at East 22nd Street)

Maialino is located on the ground floor of the Gramercy Hotel.  The restaurant is rather large.  The entrance leads from a bustling bar area through a mid section that includes the brick oven and bakery display, followed by the main dining area.  Our waitress was a lovely lady that was very knowledgeable about the menu and definitely made the whole experience that much better.

For appetizers, we ordered the fried artichokes with bread sauce (carciofini fritti), the cacio e pepe pasta (tonnarelli cacio e pepe) and the ravioli with egg (raviolo al uovo).

The fried artichokes came with a good amount of lemony flavor and the artichokes were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  My only complaint was that this dish was a little bit salty.

The cacio e pepe pasta was a bit too gloopy.  The black pepper and pecorino cheese didn't manage to shine through the starchiness of the pasta.

The ravioli with egg was quite something.  Although its egg yolk ingredient made the dish sound heavy, it turned out to be quite light and a delight to eat.  This dish is one big ravioli, stuffed with ricotta cheese that is delicately perfumed with rosemary and a whole egg yolk.  The whole combination was wonderful.

For our entree, we ordered the restaurant's special (which our waitress stressed was 'off the menu' even though if you read any of the reviews about this restaurant, it is quite hard to miss) - maialino al forno.  This dish is meant to be shared between 2 - 3 people.  It does not look like too much food but it is because of the strong flavors involved and the richness of the meat.  It is basically pork belly that is roasted until the skin is crisp and the meat is falling-apart-tender.  The piece of pork belly is brought up in a silver tray whole and presented to us prior to the chef carving it.  Carved up, it is served all on a large dish with some crispy potatoes roasted with rosemary.  What a delicious treat.  It is moist, crispy and all around tasty.  The pork flavor was wonderfully enhanced with this method of cooking and I can't wait to be back and to try it again.

For dessert, the special was a panacotta topped with a fig and honey compote.  This was SO good it was even better than ice cream.  The panacotta was so rich and creamy.  The honey fig compote was bursting with a caramely flavor.  The combination went so well together.  It was the perfect ending.

Except, we ordered another dessert, the olive oil cake.  I'd say this was the weakest dish of our dinner that evening.  It was moist enough but did not have a good and strong olive oil flavor.  Disappointing and I'd recommend not ordering this.  Stick with the panacotta if it is available.

Maialino was a a delight to experience.  It's a great place for a casual, fun dinner.

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