Last night was SRV’s “Opening Night” for their charming back patio and a lovely evening it was to sit outside. My friend and I had not been to SRV previously and our excellent waiter suggested that we get the tasting menu: the Arsenale ($45 each). We did and were very glad that we had taken his suggestion. The menu is divided into 3 sections: cicchetti (tiny bites), piatti (small plates) and grani (grains). For us, the Arsenale turned out to be 4 cicchetti, 3 piatti, 2 grani and a small dessert. Everything was sized perfectly for two and although it was a little too much (a box came home with me) it was just about the right amount of food. In our case, the kitchen was working around my shellfish/cephalopod allergy.
Our cicchetti were: Quail Eggs – soft-boiled quail eggs, white anchovy, caper, garlic pangrattato; Olive Fritte – castelvetrano olives, fennel sausage, montasio; Polpette – pork and beef meatballs, tomato, parmigiano-reggiano; and Muffuletta Tramezzini – tiny fried sandwiches with sopressa veneta, olives, provolone. Each of these small offerings managed to pack a huge amount of flavor into a bite or two; we loved them all but the first 3 in particular we could have eaten all night long. I am a brutal meatball critic and the polpette definitely made the grade.
Next up the baby kale salad with pear, pecorino and a generous sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts, served with a couple of slices of nice sourdough. Very tasty and a nice palate refresher. Then the monkfish with tardivo radicchio, cardoon, walnut, a gorgeous plate with melt-in-your-mouth fish accompanied by a punchy sauce and nice textural elements. Finally in the piatti category the duck with rye, cabbage rambasici, montasio. The rye appeared as grains robed in a bright pink beet puree, the cabbage rambasici were tiny stuffed cabbage rolls with char marks and some amazingly luscious filling, the duck was incredibly tender, there were some other elements I can’t remember and the whole dish was both gorgeous and ravishingly good to eat.
At this point the table was fully cleared and reset with new plates, flatware and serving pieces for our pasta course. First we got strozzapreti with pork sausage, cauliflower, salsa verde. The pasta had wonderful texture, the pork sausage was sparing so as not to overwhelm the generous multi-colored pieces of cauliflower, there were a couple of crunchy elements and really nice seasoning – this was a winning plate of pasta. We could happily have stopped there but that did not prevent us from thoroughly enjoying the garganelli with n’duja-carrot sugo, pea green pesto that arrived next. The n’duja packed quite a punch, the pasta was wonderful, the pea green pesto was beautiful and a nice foil for the heat and richness of the n’duja. I am not one bit sorry to have a box of this for lunch today.
Last we were served a hibiscus granita on a bed of slightly sweetened ricotta with several different kinds of thinly-sliced fruits and candied beets. A gorgeous confection. I had a bite or two but desserts are not my thing. My friend was very happy to polish it off – she loved it.
Service throughout was lovely and the pacing of the different plates of food was perfect. The only slight glitch was that our bottle of wine did not arrive until we had eaten our first 3 cicchetti which could not wait as they were hot. That was the only quibble with a memorable evening of wonderful food and delightful service. I can hardly wait to go back.