Monday, February 16, 2009

Sorellina Brings Luxurious New York City Ambience to Boston

Boston’s Copley Square has been long known for its extravagant high-end stores, so why not add another lavish hotspot to its ensemble? Sorellina, the ‘kid sister’ restaurant of revered Chef/Owner Ken Mammano, is part of the culinary quintet of restaurants known as the Columbus Restaurant Group (CRG also consists of flagship Mistral, L’Andana, Teatro, and Mooo…) Sorellina, located on One Huntington Avenue, is now almost two years young, and although its opulence may not be as chic as it was since its opening given the present economic downturn, it remains one of Boston’s finest dining destinations given its sophisticated contemporary Italian-Mediterranean cuisine and unparalleled ambience.

Immediately upon entering Sorelllina, one gets the feeling of being transported into the most chic of New York City eateries. The enormous space holds 126 seats in the main dining room, and another 20 at the stylish white bar/lounge. One’s eyes are immediately drawn to Sorellina’s ultra-modern d├ęcor, punctuated by a riveting back wall mural that held my attention all evening. Black and white columns are sleekly displayed throughout, as are floor-to-ceiling windows, suspended glass lanterns, and illuminated back walls in which Sorellina’s extensive number of wines may be viewed. Now this would be a place where I would expect to see celebrities dine. As scantily-clad hostesses walked across the dining room, I wasn’t quite sure if they were checking upon table availability or merely serving as attractive eye candy for male customers. After all, this is the place to be seen.

For starters, my companion and I shared a half-portion of the Maccheroncelli, consisting of two American Kobe Beef meatballs, accompanied by a creamy Barolo reduction sauce and flecks of parmigiano. The meatballs’ texture was smooth as silk, and the meat was extremely rich and satisfying. One minor complaint was that the meatballs were accompanied by a disproportionately small amount of three buttery, homemade pasta tubes. Also, the parmigiano was an unnecessary ingredient given the richness of the meatballs. And while I’ve never claimed to be a huge fan of French fries, Sorellina’s creative take on them made me reconsider my opinion of them. Its version of truffled fries consisted of thin, buttery crisp slices, and my companion and I believed these to be the best we’ve ever devoured.

Sorellina’s entrees soared in terms of taste, ingredients, and presentation. My companion’s Long Island Pekin breast of duck served ‘Saltimbocca’ style with prosciutto, sage, parsnips, and Ambra Marsala, was perhaps the moistest version I’ve sampled in some time. My pan-roasted venison, served alongside vanilla scented chestnut spuma and a sweet huckleberry gastrico, was delightfully good. Venison is a meat that can be easily overcooked and overprepared, and requires a touch of restraint and simplicity from anyone cooking it. Sorellina’s chef cooked this Red Stag medium rare, as it should be, and the meat was perfectly charred on the outside. It’s a jewel of a dish, and rates as equally good as La Cachette’s renowned version (Los Angeles’s acclaimed French restaurant).

Desserts are nothing short of compelling. My companion’s sorbetto is, for the most part, refreshing and delicious, particularly the coconut flavor (the pomegranate less so, and the lemon, not so much). My warm chocolate budino with vanilla gelato, playfully served in a cast iron pot, might be the best chocolate concoction I’ve ever tasted. Its sweet scent can be instantly traced once the dish is presented upon the table. Its exterior sensitively sways back and forth at the touch of a spoon, revealing a hot, gooey, decadent bittersweet chocolate interior.

Service was impeccable and efficient. Our genial server was prompt and knowledgeable of the menu, providing her honest opinion on dishes she preferred over others (although an uber-happy server beside her suspiciously raved that all of the cuisine was sensational). Water glasses were constantly filled and the meal was well paced, especially given the large portion sizes. There was nary a crumb to be found in this establishment, and even the over-sized bathrooms (with sitting chairs included) were spotless.

Value is in the eyes of the beholder. Appetizers average out at $16, pasta at $27 (half portions also available), entrees at $35-40, and desserts at $10. Tack on a $15 fee for valet parking, and the check comes out to roughly $200 for two. For some of the finest cuisine in the city, it’s certainly worth splurging on a special occasion. Given today’s economic climate, it’s no secret that luxury dining destinations are struggling to stay in business. Let’s just hope that Sorellina is still around the next time I want to go out for that special occasion.