Thursday, January 29, 2009

Restaurant Week Winter '09: Take Three, Convivio

Have you ever had such a wonderful experience that you needed to immediately tell every one you know about it? Well that's why I'm doing the reviews out of order. Of our first two RW meals, one course was always off. Then I had Convivio's lunch and it was kick-ass.

Olive Bread and Oil
Convivio, the former L'Impero, is located out of the way, in the heart of park-y Tudor City, a very quiet and fancy neighborhood for you out-of-towners. During the summer of 2008, L'Impero closed, went through minor restorations, apparently humbled itself (I never ate at L'Impero so I can't judge between the two,) and reopened as Convivio. Almost immediately the reviews starting pouring in, but it wasn't a declared winner until the Bruni graced it with three stars. Ever since then, Spam and I have wanted to eat Micheal White's Italian creations. Yet, I was still surprised when Spam called me Tuesday saying "2:15 tomorrow, we're going to Convivio for a high speed power lunch." Okay, yeah, well, okay.

Salsiccia d'Anatra (sorry for the blur; I was hungry)
The only review I saw regarding their RW performance was this Chowhound thread. Duck sausage? Duck sausage! For the first course, I went for the housemade duck sausage with braised green lentils and vin cotto (Salsiccia d'Anatra). Everything was perfect, the sausage was flavorful and well-spiced, but not gamey or too greasy. The lentils were soft, but not over-cooked, and the vin cotto gave a little sweet vinegar kick at the end.

Spam got the Sfizi. She finished most of her course while I was being mesmerized by my duck sausage, but I did manage to snag some mushrooms which set me to fresh, earthy, umami heaven. I guess they're growing mushrooms in Tudor City now because there's no other explanation for how these could taste so delicious.

For our main courses, Spam chose the Orecchiette, another winner. Perfectly cooked pasta and broccoli rabe, neither overpowered by the tomato sugo or fonduta. The seasoning was excellent, it wasn't too salty which could easily ruin a dish for me.

Brasato di Maiale
As for my main course, I wisely chose the Brasato di Maiale. Yes, you're reading that right, tomato-braised pork shoulder. Perfectly seasoned, tender, moist pork shoulder. If I raised a pig in my backyard, knew everything that ever entered her mouth, and then honored her death by eating her, this is how I would hope it tastes. Would I dare say that if this pork was in a sandwich, it would be the best in Midtown? Why yes, I would dare say that. All resting on the silkiest polenta Spam or I had ever had. The polenta was spiked with cheese, making it all the more delicious. Everything on my plate was just perfect.

Cannoli alla Siciliana
For dessert, we didn't take the "you get one, I'll get the other" route since both of us wanted the ricotta cannoli. Yes, a crispy cannoli filled with creamy buffalo ricotta, next to perfect milk chocolate gelato. Just enough of each to leave you wanting one more bite, just a little more chocolate drizzle.

At the end of our rushed meal, both of us were satiated and happy. With each dish, everything complemented each other, not one component stuck out like a sore thumb. We also didn't leave sluggish or too full to return to work. As for the crowd and interior, We were mostly surrounded by an older crowd and lunchers who could linger, yet that didn't deter from the experience. The decor is soothing and bright, I noticed the whites and silvers more than the reds. The service was friendly and seemed to understand that we were supposed to be at our desks. Convivio is doing what should be done: putting their best foot forward for Restaurant Week, giving high-quality food so that maybe we'll enjoy our experience and come back for dinner. And it worked. I'll be back with Brownie sooner rather than later.

45 Tudor City Place
(212) 599-5045


Jessica April said...

Great review! Makes me want to go back and try a whole new meal!

I went to Convivio for my birthday on Tuesday for dinner and my boyfriend and I did the 4-course prix fixe. I had the parmigana, carbonara, lamb chops and expresso dessert. He had the chicken liver crostini, pork shoulder ragu fusili, Branzino and Banana chocolate tarte. Everything was unreal except for the lamb chop -- could've done without it (a little over-cooked and not my favorite flavors.)

I highly, highly, highly recommend the chicken liver crostini.


Anonymous said...

everything looks delicious! especially the pork shoulder with polenta. ah.. too bad they're too far away from a subway stop for a quick lunch. someone needs to come up with a RW map of places right next to a subway stop and places that'll get you in-n-out super fast.

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