Friday, January 11, 2008
Ryan's Restaurant Review: Via Vite
Last night Erin and I went to see Wicked, the Musical. It was really good. Before the show we wanted to eat a Palomino downtown because we had a gift card. However, we didn't make reservations and they wouldn't have been able to get us in before the show. So we decided to go across the street to Via Vite. The restaurant is located in Fountain Square, downtown Cincinnati and was opened by the owners of Nicola's, an Italian restaurant in Over the Rhine.
Erin has been to both Nicola's and Via Vite, but this was my first experience.
As you walk in there is a beautiful open bar area with views of some of the kitchen. We were seated immediately in the small, very modern (post-modern?) dining room. I was surprised to see that we were one of only 4 or 5 tables seated, but by the time we left the restaurant was packed and there was a wait for tables (to the extent that I heard a host tell the bus staff to "clear this table immediately and set it for two!" right as we stood up from our table). I had the feeling that we were about to be treated to a fun dinner with creative dishes and presentations. The waiter lost a little bit of the atmosphere as he stumbled through reading his spiel about the specials. Plus, he quickly got on my bad side when he forgot my vodka tonic for several minutes.
We decided we didn't feel like a heavy dinner so instead decided to start with the "Assortment of bruschettas". It was 6 or 7 toasted crostinis with a different topping on each one. They were all delicious. There was a traditional basil and tomato; crab salad; pesto with an anchovie; olive tapenade; chicken liver patte; and roasted pepper and garlic. Erin liked the traditional the best. The crab salad was clean and amazingly fresh. The pesto one was very good with the salty anchovie. The olive tapenade was hearty and delicoius. The chicken liver patte was good and, well, it was liver. My favorite was the roasted peppers. The meal was off to a good start.
For our next, and final course, Erin decided on the Inzimino described as a traditional Tuscan stew of calamari and spinach. I went with a salad with Boucheron goat cheese, spring mix of greens, raspberry vinaigrette and pistachios. We also shared the mussels alla marinara with garlic crostone. The Inzimino, was, in a word, bad. It was cooked in a dark sauce(?) and came in one mushy dollop in the middle of a bowl. The calamari was almost nonexistent, just one step away from mush. It was incredibly overcooked and lost all flavor of the octopus. Both Erin and I are big fans of calamari, and I have never seen it prepared in such a way to make it totally lifeless and bland. The spinach was also cooked so much that it tasted like nothing.
Erin actually asked our waiter what sort of "broth" it was cooked in and he said it was prepared for hours with a lot of red wine. Well, the lesson learned here is that calamari should NEVER be slow cooked for hours and that it is crucial to let good, fresh ingredients shine.
My salad, on the other hand, was very good. The pistachios added a perfect contrast to the yummy raspberry dressing and the creamy, melted goat cheese. It also was a nice compliment to the mussels which were prepared with a light, diced tomato sauce with just a touch of garlic. The mussels were perfectly cooked, not too mushy and not too rubbery. I thought the sauce could have used either some more garlic or some lemon. Near the end of the meal I actually asked for some lemon, but I never got it.
All in all, the service was disappointing, but it was noticeable that the waitress taking care of the table next to us was much better prepared and professional. As Erin said, we were 3 for 4 in good dishes. And even though that stew was almost unforgivable, I would be willing to go back, if for nothing else to try some of their bigger entrees. Grade: B.