Sunday, May 22, 2011

Italian Night

I had wanted to try Ciano since it opened--and was awarded two New York Times stars--last year. The restaurant is known for its northern Italian cuisine along with its different approach to wine drinking; one can order a glass of any wine on the entire list, which can range from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous as far as price points are concerned. But never mind. The idea is appealing to single diners or those who find themselves in the company of non-oenophiles.

Because my reservation included ten other people, we had a set menu, which is never an accurate reflection of what a restaurant can accomplish. Our appetizer choices included an arugula salad, fresh burata with a pine nut pesto and caramelized onions, and two oversized meatballs redolent of fine short ribs. Both the burata and meatballs were fine and delicate dishes, worthy of any menu.

I skipped the swordfish option entirely and found myself among duck papparadelle and a medium-rare lamb loin instead. The paparadelle was toothy and satisfying, if a little rich for mid-May. I missed the possibilities brought forth with spring's vegetable bounty. The lamb came closer to what one might expect from a spring menu, but the fava beans at the plate's top arrived undercooked and underseasoned. The lamb itself--cooked to a cool center--was surprisingly tough and gamy. And the portions for a tasting menu were far too large to be considered appropriate.

But dessert brought spring to the table in full force, a delicate and complex napoleon of strawberries and rhubarb and minted cream. I would have ordered it again and definitely would have chosen it over the yodel-like chocolate cake and stracciatella ice cream. I found myself underwhelmed at meal's end, possibly a testament to the limitations of a set menu.

45 East 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010

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