Monday, April 30, 2012

More pasta @ Cotogna

A month ago, we went to Cotogna for the first time, after having an absolutely phenomenal meal at their formal sister restaurant, Quince.  I enjoyed it so much that I immediately came home and made another reservation, as they book a month out in advance.

Tonight's dinner wasn't as memorable as the first time we went, with no no dish being quite as good as our previous visit.  We decided to only get pasta dishes this time around, as we had pizza last night, the appetizers and sides weren't really jumping out at us, and the pastas were far and away the highlights from the first time.  Since we were going to share a bunch of pasta dishes, they let us course it out rather than get a slew of dishes all at once.

Service was just as good as last time - friendly, casual, yet very knowledgeable.  We did have to wait a while for our table, even with a reservation, but I don't really fault the restaurant for this, as the the people at our table had finished and paid, they were just taking their time getting up.  There was a mistake and we were brought the wrong dish, which they quickly fixed once we inquired about it, and gave us the extra dish complimentary.

The entire restaurant had the same friendly, casual vibe, with us even chatting for a while with the neighboring table.  I was again struck by the nice feeling of just being there.

I wasn't all that impressed by anything this evening, but I can still say that Cotogna really knows how to cook pasta.  The pasta was all amazingly fresh and just perfectly executed.  The area where they fell down tonight was the sauces.  They were particularly heavy, all butter and oil based, and the flavors didn't seem that developed.  Dishes had a rather one note feel.  And they were all topped with unnecessary cheese.  But man, they know how to cook pasta!

I'm sure I'll go back, particularly when I have a pasta craving, but I'm not rushing to make the next available reservation this time around.
Focaccia, dipped in oil.
Like last time, we requested the complimentary bread, a focaccia.  The bottom layer is coated in olive oil, the top has some herbs on it.  It was basically the same as last time, perhaps slightly less oily.  Not bad, but not particularly good either.  The olive oil was very flavorful, but it was a little too saturated for my liking.  And like last time, I would have preferred this to be served warm.

I think I'd skip this next time, there is just no reason to fill up on this when the pasta is coming ... (and unlike last time, we didn't have the amazing cheese fondue to soak up with the bread!).
Red wine, $10.
All wines by the glass are $10 (bottles are $40).  I asked for a recommendation, and the waitress, after talking me through some preferences, suggested the Bardolino, Le Fraghe, 2010.  She brought it over and poured me a sip, and I really didn't like it, which she could tell.  She asked what I didn't like, and I explained (the tannins, the bite), and she came back with another offering.  I didn't catch the name :(  This was much ligher, slightly sweet, and I enjoyed it.  Not a very complex wine, but very drinkable.  And you just need a glass of red wine with your pasta!

I was really impressed with her knowledge of the wines, and with her quick willingness to bring me something else when I didn't like the first wine.  Also worth noting, in addition to their decent sized wine menu, the entire Quince wine menu is also available, if you are feeling the desire to go higher end.
Asparagus tortelli.  $17. 
This was an asparagus and ricotta filled pasta, with slices of asparagus, in a heavy buttery sauce, finished with cheese.

The pasta was perfectly cooked al dente.  It had a really great chew to it.

The filling was a mix of ricotta and asparagus, plentiful, but not particularly memorable nor flavorful.

The asparagus shavings were tender and fresh tasting, but again, not as flavorful as I'd have liked, particularly as it is aspragus season and I really expected to taste the asparagus more.

The sauce felt very heavy, too buttery, and just too much for this dish.  I'd have preferred something ligher, and perhaps with lemon.

This was my second to last pick of the night, but the first pick for one other diner, and the second favorite for the other, so I was clearly in the minority.  I wouldn't get this again.
Tagliatelle verdi with duck Bolognese. $17.
This dish was mistakenly brought to us.

Again, the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente.  I'm not sure what made it green, as I didn't taste any particular flavor in it.

The sauce was an duck bolognese, and it was again topped with cheese.  I didn't expect to like this much, as I don't really care for duck.  But, it didn't taste anything like duck, it tasted more like pork sausage crumbles.  The crumbles were moist, slightly spicy, and I quite liked them, except that it was odd to not be able to identify what meat they were.  We actually thought that they might have told us the wrong thing when they told us this was the duck dish, and thought it might be the goat instead, but that one didn't come with green pasta.  I appreciated this dish for the well cooked pasta and the meaty sauce, but the sauce was really lacking something.  It was just oil and the duck crumbles, it seemed like it needed something more to bring the whole dish together.

This was my third favorite of the evening, but the last pick for one other diner, and the first pick for the other.  We were very divided on this one!  I wouldn't order it again, but I did enjoy it.
Tagliolini with Oregon bay shrimp, spring onion & horseradish.  $17.
This is the dish we actually ordered.

Again, perfectly cooked al dente pasta.  If I had to pick a best execution on the pasta, I'd say this one was the best, but they were all very well cooked.

The sauce was a light tomato and horseradish sauce, that reminded me of a bloody mary.  The horseradish flavor was definitely there, but I would have enjoyed this even more had it been more pronounced.  It was the most complex and developed of the sauces we had.

The bay shrimp were fine, cooked well enough, but were so small they weren't particularly memorable.  They did go quite well with the tomato and horseradish, sort of like a shrimp cocktail.

I appreciated that this sauce didn't feel quite as heavy as the others, not as loaded with butter or oil, and it wasn't topped with cheese.  A much more refreshing dish (insofar as a pasta dish is ever going to be light and refreshing ...).

This was my second favorite of the evening, and I'd probably order it again, although I'd pair it with a white wine.  It was the third favorite, and forth favorite, of my dining companions.
“agnolotti dal plin”  $17.
Another perfectly cooked pasta dish, in an oil sauce, topped with cheese.  Noticing a theme here?  This reminded me a lot of the duck dish.

The pasta was very, very al dente.  Perhaps slightly under, but with a great chew on it.

The filling was a ground mix of veal, pork belly, and chicken.  It had a rather gritty consistency, and seemed a little inconsistent.  We all kept having really mixed feelings on this dish.  We'd have one piece that had a nice flavor, and then one that didn't.  I think we were liking the veal and chicken and not the pork belly.

The sauce again just felt heavy, oily, and not developed in any way.  And, there was more grated cheese on top, that again just made it heavy and didn't seem to quite enhance it.

This was my last favorite of the evening, and I wouldn't order it again.  It sounds like they mix up the filling regularly however, and I'd try it again with a different filling.  It was also the least favorite for one other diner, and the second to last for the other.
Gnocchi with “four lilies,” vin santo & snap peas .  $17.
Oh yum!

Soft, fluffy little gnocchi pillows, in a cream sauce, with tons of assorted softened, caramelized onions.

The gnocchi were light little puffs of potato.  My dining companions felt that they were over cooked, and I agree that they were definitely on the mushy side, but it just reminded me more of mashed potatoes this way, which I liked.  They had clearly just been boiled and not pan finished, so there was no crust whatsoever on them.

The "four lilies" were a combination of a bunch of different onions, including spring onions and leeks.  There were tons of them, and they were all very cooked down, soft, and really flavorful.  I loved the flavor they added, and thought they went so well with the potato.

The menu said there were snap peas, but I sure didn't see any, which is too bad, as snap peas are in season right now, and oh so delicious!

The sauce was a creamy, cheesy sauce.  It was delicious.

This was ridiculous comfort food - mashed potatoes, creamy, buttery, cheesy sauce, and super flavorful onions.  So good.  No the most sophisticated or refined dish, but it totally satisfied me.  My first choice of the evening, and I"d order it again.  Second and third pick for my fellow diners.
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