There are certain names in the food world that elicit certain reactions. When you hear the name Mario Batali you think talented chef, TV personality and successful restauranteur. Pair his name with the likes of food heavyweights Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich, and you can’t possibly go wrong.
This was Diva #2’s thought process when choosing a restaurant to indulge in while in New York over the American Thanksgiving holidays. Having eaten at other Batali restaurants, it was hard to say no to Del Posto. Reserving a table at a Batali restaurant is serious business; you have to leave a credit card number. For reservations of five or more, you can choose between the fixed menu of 5 courses at 115$ per person, or the Captain’s Tasting Menu of 8 courses for 165$. Other options include a fixed lunch menu at 39$ for three courses, which is really a steal and includes an antipasto, primo or secondo and dessert, with the option of a pasta plate for the table at an extra charge.
After spending our morning browsing the boutiques in Bryant Park, we headed over to Del Posto. Opened in 2005, Batali’s restaurant sits on the corner of 10th Avenue in the Chelsea / Meatpacking District. Opulent is one way to describe the interior of the restaurant. Rich mahogany and marble are in abundance, a central staircase leading to more tables beckons you, some tables sit on extended balconies, and soft piano music fills the enormous dining area. Greeted by a warm smile, we were led to our table by our host Thomas, where the start of a choreographed dance unfolded amongst the wait staff.
Thomas explained the fixed menu just before our amuse bouches arrived. Mickey the Butcher commented on how soft the leather-bound menu was, and Thomas complimented her taste pointing out that it was made by Coach, a staple in Mickey the Butcher’s closet. The amuse bouches were a treat, as restaurants rarely treat their patrons to a treat that actually opens the appetite. At Del Posto, the amuse bouches truly set the tone of what we could expect from Mark Ladner’s kitchen.
Presented on a pedestal, we started with the thrice baked rice pasta with truffles. Very crunchy, the rice pasta was the perfect vehicle for the truffle powder. Next was a celeriac purée soup. Very smooth and velvety, it was perfect with the truffle powder that rimmed the shooter glass. And last, a mini lobster roll that was fresh with a bright taste of citrus and a generous amount of buttery lobster.
Once the table was cleared and our napkins changed (yes, they replaced our napkins, after each service), the bread basket was brought to our table. There were three different breads which included a white mini loaf, a focaccia and olive bread. The bread was served with sweet butter and whipped lardo with rosemary. The breads were delicious but the whipped lardo won Diva #2’s heart. It must have been very apparent that she was pleased, as Thomas later joked that he tried to convince the pastry chef to include it in a dessert. If only!
The lunch menu offered many appetizer choices and they all looked delicious. This is why Diva #2 wanted to cry a little when her lunch companions all ordered the herb salad, never was she more appreciative of Diva #1. Mickey the Butcher had promised to order the cold lobster salad, but she disappointed Diva #2, who glared at her for the rest of the meal. The Divas have a strong opinion on ordering salad in a restaurant – don’t do it! But alas, this group did. Nevertheless, the salad was simple yet satisfying, or so they said because Diva #2 refused to taste it out of principle. A good portion for an appetizer, with mixed greens and plenty of bitter radicchio, the vinaigrette, made with truffles (perhaps a saving grace), was light and delicious.
Diva #2 could not pass up the truffled beef carne crudo. The raw beef had a rich flavour which was only enhanced by the truffle mixed into the cubed meat. The peppery watercress complimented the generous salty shavings of Grano Padano. Definitely one of the best raw beef dishes that Diva #2 has ever had.
For our mains, we ordered from the secondo part of the menu. The striped bass sat on top of a bed of caponatina, which is a Sicilian eggplant based relish that pairs perfectly with fish to add “meatiness” to a dish. The large portion of fish was cooked perfectly and was moist throughout. It was served with thin bread crisps topped with sesame seeds which gave the dish a crunch. It was also served with bright, yellow flower blossoms that popped against the opaque fish.
The salmon was exquisite and is, without question, the best piece of salmon that Diva #2 has ever had and maybe will ever have. Bold statement? Yes. But also very true. The salmon was cooked sous-vide style, meaning that the fish was cooked at an even temperature; this makes all the difference in the world. Diva #2’s cousin was kind enough to share her dish (if only to make amends for ordering a salad). The salmon was extremely moist and though it was cooked with rosemary, the bold herb was not overpowering. The fish was served with a crunchy salad of cauliflower and hazelnuts. All this was topped with paper-thin slices of radish. Simply marvelous!
Diva #2 was eager to try the duck. Cherries are often paired with duck and this dish used an Amarena based sauce which complimented the duck perfectly. Amarena is a type of cherry from Bologna and Modena, and it made one hell of a sauce for duck. The dish consisted of perfectly cooked medium rare slices of duck breast, with a good amount of fat still on the meat, as well as a piece of the duck breast intact with extra crispy skin. It sat atop coarse polenta which also absorbed the Amarena sauce and duck juices. There were a couple leaves of crisp, braised radicchio tardivo which is only in season from November to March, as well as some mildly salty olives. Again, another perfect dish!
We decided to let Thomas choose the desserts and he did not disappoint. We started with the Pecorino cake served with honey gelato and roasted pears. The cake was moist and dense, with a slight nutty flavour. This was complimented by the sweet, roasted pears and delicious honey gelato.
The coffee tartufo was refreshing. A heavy coating of cocoa powder covered the hard exterior chocolate shell holding in the smooth coffee flavoured ice cream. The dish was scattered with crunchy bread and drizzled with a reduced balsamic. The only thing that Diva #2 didn’t like was the candied ginger but only because she is not a fan of ginger. Except the red-headed bearded variety, she loves those gingers!
The butterscotch semifreddo was very light and smooth. It was sprinkled with small pieces of sbrisolona, which is a traditional crunchy tart, and tart pomegranate seeds which added another nice crunch.
The last dessert is something that is no longer on the menu. It is decadent and Diva #2 was happy that Thomas included it on their table. Covered in a dark chocolate ganache, the inside of this dessert is a light and airy ricotta filling on a base of chocolate crumbs. Pistachios decorate the outside of the dessert, which is paired with an olive oil ice cream. Delicious!
If that wasn’t enough, our meal ended with mignardises, served partially on a cheese grater that acted as a serving dish with a pull-out drawer with more treats. Talk about being spoiled! There were four different offerings, starting with the candied grapefruit which was bursting with flavour. There were also some spicy and candied pecans that gave a little kick. The truffles were dark chocolate decadence and the winner was definitely the mini bombolini, which were still slightly warm, and stuffed with orange cream. They were light, the orange cream was like velvet and it was all simply divine!
Del Posto is definitely a treat. The service is impeccable, done with the flair of the French but the essence is all Italian. The décor is lavish and comfortable. And the food is something to be experienced. From start to finish, Batali’s restaurant is excellent and is most definitely a place to return to.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: Always on Thursdays, Amuse Bouche, Beef Carne Crudo, Bitter Herbs & Lettuces, Bombolini, Bryant Park, Butterscotch Semifreddo, Chelsea, Cocktails, Del Posto NYC, Del Postos New York, Dessert, Duck Breast, Fixed Menu, Focaccia, Homemade Pasta, Italian, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, Manhattan, Mario Batali, Mark Ladner, Meatpacking, Meatpacking District, Mignardises, Native Striped Bass, New York, New York City, NYC, Pecorino Cake, Primo, Reservations Needed, Ricotta Cake, Salmon, Secondo, Set Menu, Tartufo, Truffle Dressing, USA, Whipped Lardo, wine