Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Indian to Italian

As Tabla closes its doors after 12 years, I found myself in need of a job. I wanted to stay within the restaurant group, Union Square Hospitality Group, not only because they all seem to be successful restaurants; but because its a great culture to be apart of.
In January, I will be joining Danny Meyer's latest venture, Maialino. Maialino is a new Roman-style Trattoria in the Gramercy Park Hotel featuring the food of executive chef Nick Anderer. The menu draws its inspiration from classic Italian dishes found throughout Rome. Maialino, like most other USHG restaurant, features fresh and seasonal ingredients found in the Greenmarket or local farms.

Only being to Maialino for a class trip and interview, I wanted to grab some dinner to see what I was getting myself into. I was immediately impressed as the restaurant was packed. The bar was bustling with guests waiting two deep. My roommate Greg and I were lucky to find two spots open at the communal table in the bar area. I like the idea of a communal table, because it allows you to interact with other people--sharing thoughts on the food and giving your own suggestions. I found myself giving the lady across from me a brief history on the restaurant as she asked, "what does Maialino stand for"? Maialino translate into English as "little pig"--a nickname given to Danny Meyer.
The restaurant was designed by David Rockwell, world-famous architect and designer. Rockwell has designed many restaurants and hotels such as the W (Union Square), Bar Americain, Nobu, and many more. Although reviews of the restaurant have called the space Pottery Barn, I think its a warm, comfortable atmosphere much like some of the trattorias I've visited in Rome. Our server was very knowledgeable on the menu and the wines. Her timeliness seemed a little off, but I'm sure she was busy helping other tables. Unfamiliar with the menu, our server helped us pick out an awesome dinner.

An assortment of bread and olive oil was a good introduction to the Roman-styled menu. Water was kept at the table in old wine bottles, which I love. We started off with a complimentary dish of shrimp sent out by the kitchen. The shrimp were magnificently prepared as it got me real excited for the rest of my meal.

We then split the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe which was amazing. Not only was it a perfect portion size, but it had such awesome flavor. This dish is a classic Roman dish of pasta with pecorino and black pepper--simple but delicious. Tonnarelli is made in a similar way to spaghetti except that the machine that extrudes the pasta produces a square cross-section rather than a circular cross-section. The kitchen sent out another complimentary pasta dish, but I had missed the name of it. This dish was also very good, but hit me as more of a traditional pasta dish covered in tomato sauce. Both pastas were good, but the edge goes to the Tonnarelli as my roommate said, "I can eat that everyday".

Our main course was Maialino's centerpiece item--the suckling pig for two, served with with roasted potatoes. We ordered a side of spinach to get some vegetables in our diet, but we definitely didn't need it. The spinach was great, but I was already feeling full after my pasta course.The New York Times describes the dish as "pork at its best" after describing its simple preparation of rosemary, cracked fennel, salt, and pepper. The crispy skin and the tender, flavorful meat made this dish something to remember.

Too full for dessert, we headed out in a self-induced food coma. Overall, Maialino was a home run. I look forward to working there. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if looking for a nice glass of wine or a great Italian meal. Since they are in a hotel, they are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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