We indulge in Tosca’s tasting menu about twice a year, and although the architecture of that menu—seafood crudo, scallop, risotto, pasta, meat, and dessert—is stable, there are frequent tweaks to the individual courses. On our recent visit the first course was very well received—the bream had been cured with lemon and oil and was interestingly sauced. The small scallop was dressed with a seafood ragu and uni. I found the dish to be fascinating, although one member of the party confessed a dislike for uni.
The surprise hit of the menu was the risotto In addition to its cheese and mushroom, it had been perfumed with truffle. Everyone pronounced it outstanding and regretted its small portion.
In recent years the tasting menu pasta has been Tosca’s signature pappardelle with rabbit ragu, which is my favorite dish there, but now that menu instead includes a fettuccine with elk ragu and fruit. We ordered a pappardelle for the table to compare, and it was as rich and elegant as always. The fettuccine was meaty and earthy; an excellent dish that some (but not I) might prefer to the pappardelle.
The menu listed lamb loin for the meat course, but because the kitchen was out of lamb, venison was served. It was very tasty and surprisingly tender. The warm chocolate cake, accompanied by as bit of cream and sorbet, was a suitably decadent finish.
Portions were modulated so we ended feeling comfortably full but not overstuffed. Some of us had the wine pairings—six half-pours (or a bit less) of well matched wines, mostly in the $30-$40/bottle retail range. A pleasant surprise was the less expensive ($18/bottle retail) Nero d'Avola Planeta "Cerasuolo din Vittoria" 2011 that stood up well to the other wines. Perhaps Sicilian wines deserve more respect than they are usually accorded.
Each course featured prime ingredients well prepared and interestingly sauced. Service was impeccable; every need was anticipated but the staff did not hover. Our group had dined at Fiola—rated by the professional critics as the beat Italian restaurant in the area—a few weeks earlier. Comparing the experiences, we unanimously agreed that Tosca was the winner in food, service, and value.
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