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Spasso: Where Appetizer is the Star

August 13, 2012

We were looking for a casual spot on the west side for dinner last Thursday.  Preferably somewhere between Chelsea and Tribeca with a light relatively healthy cuisine and most importantly, would take reservations at the very last minute.  After tossing out a few old standbys that didn’t thrill and a few newcomers that didn’t inspire, we settled on Spasso, an Italian inspired West Village spot on the corner of Perry and Hudson.  I had visited Spasso a year and half ago during a friends and family pre-open night thanks to DC.  I was quick to judge and was left slightly unimpressed but after hearing great things repeatedly from trusted coworkers and friends, I decided that it was finally time to revisit and give Spasso another shot.

We walked in at 7.30pm to an only half full restaurant.  Guess it was still early for the West Village crew for dinner call but it was perfect for us to have a conversation where we didn’t have to shout just to be overheard by the person sitting next to you.

 

 

From my prior trip to Spasso, I knew that the one dish that stood out was the housemade Stracciatella cheese with olive oil and grilled bread.  A bowl of milky creamy stracciatella cheese consisted of long tender strands that I twirled around the fork like spaghetti.  Each bite just melt in my mouth and the young almost spicy olive oil gave it a slight kick.  In the end, we dipped the bread into the leftover creamy milk at the bottom of the bowl just to make sure that no bite went to waste.

I was eyeing the chicken liver toast and thankfully, my two dinner dates were equal enthusiasts of this particular dish.  Spasso served their chicken liver crostini with roasted grapes.  What made this some of the best chicken liver toast that I have ever had was that liver was so incredibly creamy.  Instead of whipped into a mousse, these seemed to have been just sous vide until meltingly soft.  The rustic country bread that came with the stracciatella was a perfect vessel.  The grapes had been roasted until they were reduced to a sweet soft concentrate, not that different from caramelized onion.  Trust me, I did not try to be polite and refuse when I was offered the very last bite.

 

The last appetizer of the night was a small bowl of mussels al vino bianco with chili butter.  The white wine broth and chili butter were incredibly fragrant and all the mussels were plump and sweet.  Another home run dish.

 

 

I opted for the squid ink tagliatelle with clams and chive flowers while the boys went with the braised oxtail ragu pappardelle with ricotta salata.  Compared to the appetizers, our pastas seemed so ordinary, almost like an after-thought.  I was hoping for a tender fresh pasta and was instead given a bowl of dried pasta that had too much of a bite.  The sauce had an overwhelming tomato flavor that drowned out the delicate clams and chive flowers.  As I worked my way through the dish, my mind kept on wondering back to that delicious bowl of squid ink pasta from Scarpetta.  That is never a good thing!

By the time dinner ended and a few more drinks had passed, it was already 9.30 and the restaurant was lively, packed with a small crowd of diners waiting at the bar for a table.  Even though the pastas weren’t quite what I had been looking for, the three home run appetizers more than made up for the mediocre pastas. I think I will return and next time, I will know better and stick with the obviously more thought-through appetizer section of the menu.  Oh that chicken liver crostini and the stracciatella cheese, until next time!

Spasso | 51 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 | http://spassonyc.com

 

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