Finally got around to trying A16 – they take reservations now, so that was a big incentive… We lucked out with parking and arrived 15 minutes early and they seated us right away.
I’d read that A16 has a great wine program – and the wine list certainly was extensive. Many bottles seemed to be on the pricey side, too… But not long after we were seated, the sommelier that evening, Anaïs, arrived and asked if we had questions. I told her we’d like to share some half-bottles, what little I know about the wine we like and that we preferred something inexpensive. She started us with a very nice white, followed later by two different reds (the last one from Sicily and my favorite). And all this just a bit more than $50. I was really impressed by her knowledge of wines and how much she engaged us in the selection of the wines, despite a small budget. We were very fortunate to leave our wine selection in her very capable hands.
As for the meal, we started with a roasted beet and farro salad. It was a lovely and well-balanced dish, the sweet beets set off by the salty ricotta salata and a nicely acidic dressing. And the farro gave a salad some substance and toothfulness. Very good.
Next was a pizza bianca, with cheese, chiles and basil. The crust was flavorful and delcious and the flavors played nicely. The rather unfortunate drawback was that there was way too much cheese – it overpowered the rest of the dish and made the crust rather soggy in the center. Not sure whether we just had some bad luck or if they don’t execute pizza bianca especially well, because the other pizzas I saw coming out of the kitchen looked marvelous, especially the margherita and salsiccia….
For our entree, we shared the braised pork with porchetto – and I realize as I’m writing this, I don’t know which was which. At any rate, there was some sliced pork (the shoulder, I believe) served along side what looked like an inch-thick slap of bacon. The meat was very nice, though it didn’t bowl me over initially. But then I tried it with a bit of what I took to be the porchetto. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but the exterior was wonderfully crispy and salty, while the fatty interior was the texture of soft butter. It was wonderfully creamy and delicious (well, duh – it’s salty fat… Or fatty salt? Either way, a combination that is hard to beat…) Our side was roasted carrots and turnips – fully-cooked yet still with some crispness and just a bit sweet. All very good…
For dessert, we shared the house-made gelato, which seemed like a can’t lose proposition. And for the ricotta gelato with pistachio and candied fruit, it was – the first bite took me right back to the gelateria around the corner from the apartment we stayed in Rome. It was really delicious. The other gelato was chocolate – and it was lousy. It had that faux-chocolate flavor one associates with Carnation Instant Breakfast or Ensure – sort of powdery and artificial and not at all chocolatey. I was really surprised by how disappointing this seemingly simple and easy-to-create dish was. I’d actually read that desserts are a weak spot at A16 and that certainly proved true for the chocolate gelato… But the ricotta gelato was sensational. Go figure…
At any rate, despite the gelato, it was a lovely evening. Chris and I really enjoyed ourselves, most of our meal and the fine service. Then we headed home to get in a few rounds of Singstar before bed. Who could ask for anything more?