Monday, September 17, 2012

Sofia Wine Bar

When I first received an invitation to dine at Sofia Wine Bar, I was a bit skeptical.  After all, it's not often that you go to a wine bar for dinner.  But Sofia Wine Bar is upping its food game so those that come to drink will stay to eat.  Sofia opened in February 2009 and currently has 80-100 wines available by the glass and 70 by the bottle.  The selection comes from different countries and regions within those countries.  The cuisine is not typical bar food, instead it is Home style Italian.  The French windows in the front dining and bar area create an inviting space that got pretty crowded after a little while.  We sat in the back, a cavernous area that seats about 12.  The space is beautifully decorated but the exposed brick created a lot of extra noise because the voices bounced off the wall.  They typically have a pasta special on Sundays but since we were there on a Monday they decided to hook us up.  We were presented with a marvelous vegetarian lasagna.

The ricotta and tomato sauce were rich and fresh. The pasta was light and melted in my mouth. It was truly spectacular and made me wonder why they don't serve pasta all the time.  Thankfully I was told that they will soon start serving pasta every day!  If it's anything like this lasagna, I'm sure they will gain lots of repeat customers.   Pretty soon after, the Stuffed Mushrooms and Artichoke arrived.

They are mixed with prosciutto and pecorino so I didn't dig in but the other diners definitely enjoyed it.  I was wrapped up in the Mozzarella. 

The mozzarella is made fresh in house.  The thick slices were creamy and flavorful and the tomato was juicy.  I also really enjoyed the toast!  It was crunch but soft. Unbelievable!  I ate way too much bread!  The Eggplant Caponata was my least favorite.

There was nothing exciting about it. The eggplant was slightly overcooked which was disappointing but at least there was some bread there!  The beef eaters devoured the Meatballs.

They were huge and served with rich tomato sauce.  I was much happier when the Margherita Pizza arrived.

The sauce was a little tangy and tasted great with the crust. I loved the mozzarella and the fresh pieces of basil made it taste even better.  Just as I was reaching capacity, it was time for dessert! 

Holy Cannoli!!  Somehow I realized this must have been my first cannoli. This was truly a special moment.  I loved the creamy sweetness. It was perfect! Not toothache sweet just rich and filling. The cream is apparently from Italy.  I also loved the crunchy shell.  It was phenomenal!

I had a great time at Sofia.  The extensive wine list may be the reason you go, but the variety of delicious items on the menu is the reason you stay!  As the owner, Tommaso said, "Eat while you can enjoy it!"  I recommend heading over to Sofia and start enjoying it!

Hungry yet?

Sofia Wine Bar, Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jeanne and Gaston part deux

You may recall that back in May I visited a relatively new restaurant Jeanne and Gaston. I enjoyed my meal and looked forward to returning to enjoy the outdoor garden dining.  I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to do just that.

The space has really turned out well.  The evening was perfect. We had a light breeze and the sunlight lasted just long enough to brighten our meal.  I usually don't feature bread, but this was worth focusing on.

The bread was warm and tasted great.  It was even better when I tried it with the duck pâté.

Our meal started with the Charcuterie. Normally I stay away from this part of the meal because there usually isn't something on there for me.  But this time the duck pâté stared at me and I couldn't resist.  It was phenomenal.  It had a creamy texture and was rich but had a lightness when spread on the bread. It was the perfect way to open my palette.  We moved on to the Calamari.

It was perhaps the most impressive and well executed dish of the evening.  The gazpacho had a cool spice that was unexpected. The marinated zucchini strips were carefully crafted and cut so thin they reminded me of cucumber but richer.  The grilled calamari was cooked to perfection, not chewy or overdone, which is always my concern.  I absolutely loved it!  Unfortunately, this was a dish that I never would have ordered given the bland description on the menu.  Hopefully Chef Claude revisits the menu soon and spruces up this star dish!  While everyone else munched on their meat, I was delighted when my Scallops arrived.

The two perfectly seared diver scallops were served "tarte tatin" provencale.  The scallops were heavenly! They were rich and well seasoned.  The sauce was also great and the tomatoes were just right. The focaccia at the bottom just didn't do it for me.  When the Duck Magret arrived, my mouth started watering. I could barely wait for the plate to hit the table.

It was a perfect slice of duck with broccoli tempura and a mango emulsion. The sauce was an unusual choice.  It's not often you see mango with duck, but this was done perfectly!  The duck was tender and the skin was perfectly crisp. I ate every bite and wish I could have had seconds!  I was already stuffed so it was time to switch gears and open my second stomach for dessert.  My favorite dessert was the Vanilla-Raspberry Vacherin.

This was my first time eating this lovely layered dessert. The merengue alternated with raspberry sauce, sorbet and vanilla. I enjoyed eating each layer separately as well as eating them together.  If you've never had one before, I highly recommend it! 

My revisit to Jeanne and Gaston was well worth it!  The outdoor space is beautiful so I urge you to head over there before the weather betrays you.  The restaurant recently began an all night happy hour from 4pm to close.  The bar is beautiful and if the French windows are open, you'll be able to gaze out on 14th street and watch the foot traffic.  

My recommendation from last time stands.  Jeanne and Gaston is a great restaurant with lots of great options. The $40 Prix Fixe dinner is a great deal!  There are a lot of high points on the menu and the space is beautiful.  Enjoy!

Hungry yet?

Jeanne & Gaston on Urbanspoon