Po is an italian restaurant in the west village. Mario Batali was one of the people that opened it a few years back. Since it’s restaurant week, I thought I will bring my team out to a fancy lunch to reward them for all their hard work.
The restaurant is small. Like most italian places. Very very small. There was probably only like 10 tables in there. A little dark. Nothing I didn’t expect of a good classic italian place.
The restaurant week menu looked great. 4 options for antipasti, 4 for secondi and 3 for desserts. Since we had 4 people, we could order every dish but we didn’t. But we covered most.
For starters, I was going to get the white bean ravioli but the table beside us were one course ahead of us so when I saw how delicious the spinach tagliatelle looked, I changed my mind.
All i can say is wow… a pretty large portion of pasta for a starter, it was absolutely delicious. I believed they used fresh pasta because the texture tasted so different from dried pasta. Either that or I have been cooking my pasta wrong all this time. The sauce was rich with flavor. Best bolognese I ever had. But then again I never had bolognese when i do fine dining.
The white bean ravioli was good too. The sauce they used was this interesting brown butter balsamic vinegar reduction. A little too much for me. Perhaps i prefer my brown butter in sweet dishes. But the ravioli was very tasty.
Entree. I got the grilled lamb that was topped with a whole bunch of stuff. The cumin yogurt mint pesto topping add layers of flavor to the lamb. I felt like i was travelling around the world in that one dish, as layers unfold one after another with the lamb, red onions, the cherry tomatoes, the sauces. Great.
I thought this was amazing, until I tried my friend’s skirt steak. Oh wow i am so order skirt steak the next time i do a fancy restaurant. It was bursting with flavor. So so delicious. Perfectly cooked steak. It must have been the gorgonzola butter that gave it the extra kick. Perfect. Best dish on the table.
My friend Will got the grilled hen with roasted corn and something that tasted like barley to me. It is fregula or saba or something. Anyway it was good. The hen was seasoned very well with a little bit of sweetness, savoriness, burntness. Yum. I thought it was a little tough for a dark meat but it was still very flavorful.
As for dessert, I got the ricotta cheesecake with vermont maple syrup. Light and fluffy with a nice caramelized burnt top, the way it melts in the mouth is interesting. Not too cheesy, not too sweet, not too salty, a good play of texture. I wish the texture was slightly more fluffy and solid. Still good.
The panna cotta was very light with a nice zestiness to it with the sweet sour cherry reduction. A great way to end off a heavy meal.
I however absolutely loved the Dark Chocolate Terrine, Amaretti Sorrano, Vin Santo & espresso caramel sauce. When i saw it was a block of chocolate, i thought it was going to be dry and boring. But i was soooo wrong. It was sooooo good. Extremely heavy but bursting with layers of flavor. First thing you taste is the caramel which quickly blends with the chocolate. Then the almond paste taste comes in and mixes around with the chocolate. yum… and oh what is that? Alcohol flavors seeping in? How can i say no to that? And the party in the mouth begins. These layerings are just amazing.
Hopefully I can cook like that… Layers of flavors and texture is what distinguish pedestrian food to fine dining. The ability to sneak in flavors that reveal themselves as you chew on them in your mouth is an art. An experience. Perhaps growing up in Asia has created this fascination with layers as we don’t really get this often. We tend to mix our food to create different flavors, rather than create layers.
It was I have to say the best restaurant week meal I had so far and somewhat restored my faith in restaurant week. But what made this meal more amazing than the food was the company. I was with 3 of the most amazing young people I have ever met in my life. Filled with humility, joy, compassion, passion, Jon, Will and Nicky have been working with me the past three weeks to get the bakery running. They have been such a great joy to work with that I knew I had to treat them to a meal. And what a great meal.
The best part of it all was when Will who is apparently a “fine dining virgin” started freaking out. He was saying how this was the most amazing meal in his life. He never knew food can taste this good. He declared that all the food he ever had growing up were junk. I personally love the part when he said now he understands why people choose quality over quantity and how all his life he thought chipotle was the pinnacle of how food should taste.
That made my day. Someone has crossed the line of food salvation. Chefs around the world rejoice. For their work has been recognized. As Will sit in silence allowing the experience of a food orgasm overwhelm him, I can only smile at niki ( a culinary student at johnson and wales) and fist pump each other.
This is why we love food and love cooking. We want to bring the same joy to the people around us. This is why we talk about food all the time. Because food is something that brings people of all culture together. A universal pleasure. And nothing makes us more happy than seeing someone finally understand that food is more than just sustenance. It’s a pleasure. It’s an experience. It’s the life.
Thank you guys for your hard work. To Will, Jon and Niki.
4.5 stars. Great food, even for restaurant week. Will definitely come back here if Im looking for a reliable restaurant in the West Village.