Sunday, July 25, 2010

Trattoria: The Complete Story

Behold: Lamb Sausage Pappardelle

My family and I had been loyal addicts of Trattoria, an Italian restaurant on West 4th Ave.  We loved just about every dish on the menu and couldn't resist going there as frequently as we could. Then, there was a menu change that broke everyone's heart.  I wrote about this in my first, and rather scathing, review of Trattoria.

A day later, I got an email from Stephan, Trattoria's manager, who replied to the comment card I left at the restaurant. He was very concerned about my last experience at the restaurant and offered to serve us dishes from the old menu. I was blown away by the fact that he cared so much as to contact me and offer us a chance to experience our old favorites, so I invited my friends and family and booked a table for 10 people for Saturday lunch.  Peter and Helen from Eat-Rotic drove all the way from south of Richmond to find out what was all this fuss about. Thank goodness they came, my camera ran out of battery and these pictures are Helen's.

Anyway, so here is a complete review of my experience there, taking into account of all past experiences:

Food (3/5):
First: free appetizers: these lovely scones with mascarpone cheese and warm succulent kobe meatballs.  There is a special place in my heart for free and delicious things (4/5).  Out of 10 people, we did manage to order two dishes on the current brunch menu: Spaghetti and Kobe Meatball and Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio.  I believe the meatballs are their signature dish and it has always been consistent and delicious (4/5).  Unfortunately, the carpaccio wasn't as good as I remembered it (3.5/5).  The carpaccio did come with gorgonzola polenta, which could be a little "out there" for people not familiar with the cheese.  We also requested two orders of Honey Mussel from the dinner menu.  It was rather over cooked, average, and wasn't as good as my previous experience here. The table did raise question about the strong "fishy" oder (2.5/5).

For main course, 4 people ordered the famous Lamb Sausage Pappardelle while the other 4 ordered the chicken linguini.  Both were from the previous menu.  The pappardelle was as good as I remembered it.  I loved this dish and I savored each bite, with my eyes close (4/5).  Previously, the chicken linguini (I forgot the actual name) came with large strips of chicken, but this time it has shredded chicken. This cream based pasta dish was absolutely delicious. The endive (I am guessing) that was cooked into the sauce gave it a nice freshness to contrast the cream.  The new version with the shredded chicken actually worked better in this dish than the previous one.  Wow! Why did they remove this dish from the menu? (4/5) The creaminess made the pasta very filling and difficult to finish, but that can be easily fixed with a full bodied high acid Sauvignon Blanc.

Update (November 8th, 2010): The food quality seems to continue to deteriorate in this restaurant.  Their pizza is now terrible, overpriced, and you should never order it. Current menu still have several land mines - I mean dishes - that are just repulsive.

Service (5/5):
I already have very good impression of the service at this restaurant. On top of that, the manager emailed me and offered me dishes off the menu. Then, waitress offered us free appetizers and coffee and pampered us from the start to the finish. Need I say more?

Ambience (3.5/5):
Same as before. I love the decor of the restaurant. It is sexy, modern, and ambient. It is suitable for all occasions: causal dinning, formal dinner with your in-laws, or even a good place to come as singles to mingle at the bar. It is not too loud or too crowded. The seats are luxurious and comfortable and everything are clean, sturdy, and sleek.  It's lacking a little in terms of music and warmth in the decor.  The traffic outside can be a little loud and big trucks can cause mini earthquakes.

Overall (3/5):
Although we can always call ahead and ask to order from the previous menu, the harsh reality is that current existing menu is still terrible.  Something changed in the food - in a really bad way.  The waitress explained that some of the dishes were removed, because they were not popular.  I think people did not know what pappardelle (large, very broad fettuccine) was and decided to err on the side of caution by not ordering it.  My recommendation would be that they bring back the lamb sausage sauce onto a different but more familiar pasta. Chicken is often a tough sell in a restaurant. Even I tend to avoid it, but this chicken linguini dish is definitively exceptional and deserve a second chance.  The server can up-sell a glass of white wine with the dish!

Total (14.5/20):

This is the highest score I have given to a Vancouver restaurant so far. I do appreciate Trattoria's courage to take the risk to experiment with dishes that can often be outside customers' comfort zone.  This is how all great dishes are created.  I also recommend people go to the restaurant AND ask for lamb sausage pappardelle.  The more people ask for it, the more likely they will bring the dish back.  I also appreciate the effort they put in to ensure customer satisfaction. I don't believe Stefan or the servers know that Peter and I are bloggers; yet, they went through all this trouble to get me to come back.

Oh! Almost forgot! The wine list is short (not a book like at Cin Cin), but very cleverly put together and well priced.  There are enough wines to pair with each dish and more.  Almost all of them are sourced locally or from Italy.  It is likely that you won't find your favourite wine, such as a Bordeaux, on the menu, but just ask the servers for suggestions; I don't think you would be disappointed with their pairings.

Trattoria Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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