Friday, June 25, 2010

Roman's: A Meaty Affair

When Mark Firth and Andrew Tarlow, the brain trust behind Marlow & Sons and Diner, bid farewell to the beloved Bonita, there was great anticipation over what would occupy the now vacant space in Fort Greene. The suspense ended when they doors opened to Roman's, an Italian-inspired trattoria, that was a surprising, yet welcome addition to the neighborhood. Though the cuisine may have strayed from the new American food served at their other restaurants, they stayed true to their bread-and-butter at Roman's with rotating menus focusing on seasonal ingredients. But after the initial fanfare Roman's had been subject of some heated controversy. Patrons have largely been split into two camps: those that love the creative menu consisting of small Roman-inspired plates, and those that criticize the restaurant for skimpy portions and exorbitant prices. Being a fan of both Marlow & Sons and Diner, MW and I decided to investigate ourselves.

Unlike my previous visits to its sister restaurants I arrived at Roman's without a wait. Our waitress arrived shortly to give us menus and described how they "recommended" us to order in a very matter-of-fact tone. The menu was divided between antipasti, a selection of pastas and secondi. Essentially, we were instructed to both order one selection from each of the three categories as the portions were described as being "sensible." I could now empathize with some reviewers' complaints with the restaurant. After our lecturing MW and I did what any reasonable diner would have done-- order the alcohol. We started with two glasses of Riesling, Melsheimer - Mosel, Germany (2007), which had a great level of acidity.

Choosing to ignore "convention," MW and I chose to split a single appetizer, the Pork Tonnato. Thinly sliced pieces of Braised Pork Leg topped with Tuna and Watercress served with Toasted Bread was a forgettable start to our meal. The flavor of the pork was lost among the salty tuna which reminded me of the canned variety which even the refreshing watercress couldn't save.

Luckily for us, the pastas proved to be much more successful. The Potato Gnocchi with Beef Ragu was spot on. Soft and well seasoned, the pasta married flawlessly with the rich and earthy beef ragu, which had a light dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano giving it the right salinity.

But as good as the gnocchi was the real highlight was the Capelletti, filled with Ricotta Cheese and topped with Walnuts, Arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano, this pasta was our favorite of the evening. Creamy ricotta combined with the sweet and nutty flavor of walnuts contrasted beautifully with the bitter arugula and salty cheese, made for a truly inspired dish.

After our pastas MW and I chose to order a glass of red to accompany our secondi. We chose the Barbera, De Forville - Asti, Italy (2007) which complimented our steak well.

Not too impressed with the rabbit or fish selections we chose the 1.5 pound Wood-Fired Porterhouse with Wilted Red Lettuce and an Anchovy Caper Butter. Like with all of Firth and Tarlow's restaurants the beef was grass-fed and the flavor blew me away. Being served this behemoth steak immediately conjured thoughts of Dario Checcini, the famous Italian butcher, I've seen on both No Reservations and Diary of a Foodie. A squeeze of lemon was the only additional seasoning required to compliment the wonderfully minerally-tasting steak.

We decided to finish our meal on a sweet note and shared a Dark Chocolate Sorbet. Dense and borderline bitter, the sorbet tasted like an adult version of chocolate pudding without being too rich, like eating a bowl of ganache.

My experience at Roman's had its share of its ups and downs. While service was less than accommodating and our appetizer seemed like an afterthought; our pastas, steak and dessert impressed.
If Marlow & Sons and Diner are known for their hipster patrons, stiff cocktails and seasonal menus then the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with Roman's.

243 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 622-5300

To see all our pics please click the flickr link.

Roman's on Urbanspoon

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