I went to SD26 last Friday with Helen and Seungmi in tow for Restaurant Week. Part of the allure was the fact that this is the reincarnation of the old San Domenico (think refined and genteel) that went downtown hip.
Entering the restaurant from the windy, bitter cold, we’re greeted by the hostess and saw the automated wine dispensers, something that reminds me of Clo Wine Bar in the Time Warner Building in the Upper West Side.
When we entered the dining room, it’s minimalist in design: a huge bar before one enters the dining room; the dining room done in neutral beige walls with high ceilings, while the private booth areas were in painted in a bold red, the open kitchen, and a salumi area which stank from the opened wheels Parmigiano-Reggiano. The odd things were the fabric art objects that hung along the back wall, close to where my table was. Seungmi called them “pumpkins” – colorful, fuzzy pumpkins, in my opinion. (I don’t have a photo of them because I have a bad angle from where I was sitting.)
Perusing through the Restaurant Week menu, we pretty much agreed on the same appetizers and went almost our own way through the meal.
After ordering our food, we’re greeted with the bread tray. The assortment that was available were slices of baguette, olive, walnut, and I think sourdough bread.
Helen went carb crazy (she said she was starving) and wanted one of everything. I opted for the slices of walnut and olive bread. The bread slices were served warm and they’re accompanied by fancy bottled extra virgin olive oil that every table has. I prefer olive bread for the salinity. The walnut was fine though I prefer more bits of nuts swirled within.
We all started with the “must get” dish of SD26, “Uovo” soft egg yolk filled raviolo with truffled butter. It’s worth its hype, in my opinion. A huge raviolo, about four inches in diameter, filled with creamy ricotta cheese and the most important part, the barely cooked egg yolk, coated in a truffle butter sauce. Seriously, this was a magnificent and sexy appetizer. Musky, creamy, and silky yolk elicited moans and sighs of content from our table.
Moving onto the entrée, Seungmi and Helen opted for chitarra SD26. I tried a bite of Helen’s pasta and found it to be particularly good. Fresh, very al dente pasta coated with just enough tomato sauce with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. It’s essentially, the basic spaghetti but made so much better. (I think this dish’s portion size was small, say, two to three ounces worth of pasta.)
I had the pan roasted Guinea hen for my entrée. This was heartier and heftier compared to the pasta dish. The hen was cooked perfectly – moist, flavorful and tender. The pickled chestnut (the dark black nub on the right of the plate) added a few bites of acid and the leeks were cooked to a sweet, soft pulp. Comfort food gone upscale.
When we headed toward dessert, Helen had this strange craving for ice cream and didn’t even bother asking what were the flavors of the day. Eventually, she was presented with sorbets – raspberry, lemon and chestnut. The lemon was arrestingly tart, the raspberry was tart (but not as bad) with a rich raspberry flavor, and the chestnut, the table’s favorite, was smooth, nutty and almost creamy like ice cream.
My Mocha Bar was generously portioned (they used their charger plate as the dessert plate). A long narrow bar made of a crunchy, flaky chocolate cake lined with a rich mocha ganache, dusted with cocoa powder. The quenelle of mocha whipped cream seemed excessive to me as this dessert is rich enough. It’s a good dessert but it’s a bit too much for me.
Seungmi’s panna Cotta, balsamic vinegar reduction, and fresh strawberries was the best of the three desserts. Gelatinized cooked cream (to the point that it wobbles like Jell-O, Helen and Seungmi demonstrated that thoroughly), that’s very smooth and robust with vanilla. The balsamic vinegar and strawberries are traditional pairings, bringing sweet and a little bit of acidity. Again, traditional but well executed.
For a Restaurant Week experience, this was pretty good. The “uovo” raviolo is a must get (even for their non-RW days) but everything was good but not as exciting as the aforementioned. Service swayed between pushy (as in our waiter at the beginning of service tried to persuade us a few times to buy a glass of wine, cocktail or iced tea) to casually attentive.