[Pigging by Wilfrid: October 26, 2009]
A disappointment. Resto had been off the radar as the midscale Belgian moules and beer joint it once was. [But see below.]
[Note: Since the review was published, representations have been made to me that the meat-focus was evident from the restaurant's early days under opening chef Ryan Skeen, representations I am happy to accept.]
Now, while there's a place for mussels, I admit that blood sausage and pig's head sing, to my ears, a sweeter siren song. Reviewing the menu, I didn't know how I'd be able to eat all I wanted to order.
Resto is a long, simple dining room, bar on one side, tin ceiling, nothing to soak up the noise - of which there was plenty. I am always pleased to see a restaurant full, but conversation wilted once the party of seventeen young men started celebrating in the corner. This is not a soothing place.
The drink list is cunningly embedded in the first few pages of an actual hardback book, which is amusing if slightly vandalous (a neologism for you, thank me later). I like a pink wine to cut the fatty richness of offal and chose one of the inexpensive Spanish rosés. With happy memories of Bobby Hellen's boudin noir and apple tartlets at the Food and Wine Grand Tasting, I ordered the larger version - now with caramelised pear - as one appetizer. I then added the tête de cochon and lamb riblets for good measure.
The pig's head arrived as a grilled sandwich.
The menu mentions charred bread, and charred it certainly was. Chewy too, robust even. It would have made a good vehicle for a strong toasted cheese, but it would have overwhelmed the delicately textured head meat if that job had not already been done by the sriracha sauce and pickled vegetables. It kicked like a mule. It's a lesson, I suppose, in why Bánh mì relies on a lightly crunchy baguette for its appeal rather than a grilled country loaf.
While this might be a matter of taste, the lamb belly ribs were not.
Perfectly good, tasty meat falling off tiny bones. But a dressing, I suppose, of cornmeal so heavily salted as to make the dish almost inedible. I say almost, because I persevered in the interest of fles consumption and ended up with a tongue like a wrinkled prune. The dish should have been sent back to the kitchen.
This left the blood sausage tart the clear winner of the starter round. In a hearty short-crust pastry case, the boudin is a little more liquid than I like, but it's well-flavored and pairs appropriately with pears.
Two braised dishes piled on the protein, the veal belly and the short ribs.
Meats which require long, slow cooking must, of course, be prepared in advance of service. The cardinal sin, though, is to plate them and deliver them anything less than piping hot. If cold, the rendered fat re-congeals and ruins the dish. That didn't happen here. The meats were not cold. But they were just that lukewarm side of satisfyingly hot. The veal - very fatty, but it's the belly after all - rested on a pleasantly tomatoey borlotti bean stew, accented with bitter raddichio.
(I should mention here that lighting at Resto is as low as the noise is high - but somehow short-ribs always end up looking like a lump of coal in photos - not Resto's fault.)
The short ribs pulled apart in approved style, but I must admit I've not quite been able to decipher the menu description of the dish. It's meant to be a carbonnade - although that was mispelled - or a Belgian braise of meat and potatoes. Fair enough. But what is "maresous"? And how is the large slice of potato (why one slice?) supposed to resemble potatoes "pont neuf," which are thick-cut fries? The cippolini I found, and the lardons. The dab of horseradish mayo was fairly mild.
Too meatified to make headway into the desserts, I ordered a plate of cookies. House-made, and nothing delicate about them.
Lemon meringue pie is a flavor from my childhood, so I rather liked what was more a lemon tart than a cookie. There was a pair of brown cookies sandwiching something marshamallowy - not to my taste. But it was the chocolate chip cookie which seemed to sum up the evening. It was huge, it was clearly house-made, and it just wasnt a particularly tasty cookie. It was kind of dry and salty, and made me think - I could make better myself.
Credit to Resto for the lively and timely set of dishes listed on its menu, but the execution just needs to be quite a bit better. Perhaps it was a busy evening, but there's no discount for that. And since you ask, it was around $90 a head all included. I look for a more precise meal at that price.
All about Resto right here.