Monday, August 14, 2006

Rialto Restaurant + Bar

Last night, inspired by Boston's twice-yearly Restaurant Week, L and I discovered Rialto Restaurant + Bar. Rumour has it that Restaurant Week started as a way for restaurants to bump up business during the slowest weeks of summer and winter (though I can't seem to find any official information that substantiates this claim). In any case, participating restaurants offer three-course prix fixe menus at $20.06 for lunch and $30.06 for dinner. Considering their regular menu prices, that's a great deal!

If you asked me to decide which dish was the best, I'd have to list two contenders:

1. A garlicky, flavourful mixed heirloom tomato salad served with 3 kinds of ricotta cheese (from soft and mild to firm and tangy) accompanied by a beautifully green basil oil dressing. Each ingredient is arranged on the plate just so, and I found that I could happily build a little cheese and tomato mountain on each of the the crispy bread rounds served on the side.

2. Tender roast duck thigh and leg with a completely black, yet incredibly tasty skin. That crispy skin was so intriguing that when Chef Jody Adams made a quick visit to our table (as she did for many other tables that night), we had to ask how they did it! If I tried to recreate it at home, I am sure that I would end up with a smoky kitchen and charcoal-skinned, overcooked duck. As luck would have it, though, Chef Adams was kind enough to indulge. The secret is as follows: let the whole duck sit overnight in a marinade of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. The next day, roast until the meat is 95% done. Then, cut the duck into pieces, sprinkle more balsamic over the skin, and sear quickly over high heat until the skin is crisped and black-brown.

In the end we both agreed- the food was excellent, the service knowledgeable and kind. If you can't get to Rialto, I'd recommend borrowing Chef Adams' cookbook, In the Hands of a Chef, from your local library for some of her fabulous recipes. Or, check out Epicurious for her juicy brined pork chops. Bon appetit!

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