Monday, February 21, 2011

Prix-Fixe Valentine's Day at Spasso

Deep in the heart of the West Village, at the corner of Hudson & Perry, Spasso opened its doors to patrons less than two months ago. With names like Bobby Werhane of Choptank, dell’anima and L’Artusi and Craig Wallen of Convivio and Lupa, Spasso's birth was sure to cause some buzz.

So much buzz, in fact, that I decided early in January to make a Valentine's Day reservation there for Patrick & me. I had read in the Urban Daddy write-up that there was a communal table inside the restaurant's kitchen where diners could sit and watch the food preparation as they sip on a glass of wine from Spasso's expansive wine list. When I made the reservation, I requested 2 seats at this table because who wouldn't love to sit in the kitchen?
We arrived early for our Valentine's Day reservation expecting to get a drink at the bar, but it turned out that 2 seats were available so we sat down. Sitting in the kitchen was a very cool experience, watching the chefs prepare the dishes had us both mesmerized. The waiter came over to introduce himself, and then he dropped the bomb on us. He said, "Welcome to Spasso, tonight our menu is a $75-per-person prix-fixe selection." My jaw dropped. Not because $75 per person is a ton of money for dinner, but because no one had told us this. Not when I made the reservation, not when they called me to confirm earlier that day. I was taken aback because Patrick & I had both looked at the menu and picked out the dishes we were planning to order, and this put quite a kink in our plans.

When the waiter went on to explain that we would get to choose, between the 2 of us, 3 appetizers, 2 pasta courses, 1 entree to split and 2 desserts AND that each of the 4 courses came with a wine pairing, I began to feel a little better. When he ran through the list of dishes available, I felt a lot better; he named every single dish we had already planned to order. So, while I was initially almost upset over the surprise prix-fixe menu, it actually turned out for the best.

Our first glass of wine, a sparkling Rosé, was poured, and we began to truly enjoy our evening. For our 3 appetizers, we decided on the Eggplant Arancini, Tuna Crudo & Fried Oysters. If you haven't noticed, we're kind of on a Fried Oyster kick these days! Life could be worse...

When the appetizers arrived, we were both excited to dig in. The Fried Oysters were the clear winners of the course, they were light (yes, light!), with a slight hint of the fresh lemon we had squeezed over the plate.
The other 2 appetizers weren't far behind. I have had Arancini before, but never with Eggplant. It added a smoky flavor that rounded out the entire dish. I thought they were absolutely delicious.
The Tuna Crudo was undeniably fresh and bright, with a small taste of Sea Urchin on top. While Crudo can sometimes lack flavor, this version certainly did not.
Patrick and I loved our appetizer selections, and we moved on to ordering pasta. I chose the Orecchiette with Rock Shrimp, Crab & Breadcrumbs while Patrick chose the Ricotta Strascinari with Braised Duck Leg and Smoked Scamorza (a kind of cheese.) The waiter explained to us that all the pasta was made fresh in-house, and that he thought the Ricotta Strascinari was incredible. We were excited for our food to arrive.

He brought the bowls over and set them down in front of us, and the aroma was delightful. They looked as amazing as we had hoped, and we each went in for our first bite. After 2-3 fork-fulls, we traded bowls. The dishes were so different from each other that it's impossible to say which one I liked better. I love orecchiette, and mine was perfectly-cooked. The shrimp and crab added a lovely taste of the sea and the breadcrumbs introduced a nice crunch.
The homemade strascinari was amazing. Pasta infused with cheese is pretty much the most wonderful food I can think of, and the taste matched the concept. The braised duck was tender and succulent and practically fell apart on my fork.
When we were done, our plates were practically spotless. Only once my pasta was gone did I even notice the glass of white wine that had arrived to pair with this course. It was nice and light.

At this point in the meal, I was thoroughly convinced that we had already gotten our $75 worth, but we still had to choose a main course. We decided to share the Trout wrapped in Prosciutto with Sage. The fish was placed between us, and a nice glass of red was poured. I would have liked to have the red wine with the pasta and the white wine with the fish, but I'm not complaining. The fish was light and flaky while the meat wrapped around it was smoky, flavorful and just the right amount of salty. We managed to finish the entire piece, but someone was going to have to roll us out of there.
Dessert?! How could we possibly eat dessert?! Chocolate Torte with Salted Caramel & Cornflake Crust? Okay, FINE! Dessert it is. We all know how I feel about dessert, but this wasn't sweet, it was salty and rich and wonderful. I could only have a few bites to accompany my glass of dessert wine, but the dish was fantastic.
Patrick had an apple cake that was too sweet for my taste, and we were officially stuffed.

While I was initially turned off about the prix-fixe menu that we only found out about once we sat down, we definitely got our money's worth. I'm looking forward to returning to Spasso to try the rest of the menu. I'm curious to know what you think. Do you think the restaurant should have told us about the mandatory prix-fixe menu? Do you think it should have been an option? Has the same thing ever happened to you? I wish they had told us, but the rest of the meal was simply fabulous.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie


  1. Sounds delish! My husband and I had a similar experience on Valentine's Day. We went to this restaurant and brew lounge, Vintage 51, and realized once we got there that their regular menu wasn't available. We each got to pick one food item from each category, including a glass of champagne with each entree. Since we really only had 2 options per category, we decided we would each order the opposite dish so we could try out the entire menu. It was delicious and worth every cent ($51 per person). Since I am not a food expert and don't even know what half of the meal consisted of, here's what we got:

    Love your blog, maybe I'll learn a little something about food from you on here. And if I'm ever in NYC, I'll know where to go.

  2. amazing amazing dishes! I think i would go there just for that bowl of orichette- its my fav type of pasta and even more so when its cooked to perfectioN!