Sunday, October 21, 2007

276 Smith St (Sackett and Degraw Sts)

Sequels often don’t measure up to the original. You don’t hear much about Teen Wolf Too, Pommes Frites 2 in Manhattan didn’t have nearly the success of #1, and most parents will tell you they love their first child best. Only joking on that last one (with apologies to my older brother), particularly where Pó Brooklyn is concerned. Having dinner there was excellent, start to finish, and proof of the great deal of care that has gone into this second child of the Pó family.

Tasting menus seldom catch my interest. I was never the girl who let her date order for her, and I don’t see why I should let some guy I’ve never met choose my food either—even if he is an executive chef. It’s not that I’m a picky eater, but there are things I’d just as soon leave to my foie gras-relishing, eel-inhaling husband. So much appealed to me on Pó’s menu that I couldn’t see not ordering the tasting menu. With a request to avoid sweetbreads, we set chef Lee McGrath free, our empty stomachs at his mercy.

Our menu began with a salad special: heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, purple basil, and olive oil. When our waitress brought it to our table, she told us that the purple basil had an interesting flavor, and if we would hold on a moment, she would go outside and snip some of their own basil for us to taste and compare. Were we in Italy? The basil she brought in was sweet and fragrant, and added as much—if not more—to the farm-perfect flavors on our plates as the purple variety. She—I should tell you that her name is Beatrice, because she is a gem and deserves recognition—also brought us a dish of salt, because she likes salt on her tomatoes. Sure enough, it evoked a deeper tomatoiness, much to our palates’ delight. Would every meal I eat be this good if I let someone else do the thinking?

The first of our two pasta courses was broccoli rabe and ricotta ravioli with butter sauce and chives. The ravioli was folded like an open envelope—an unusual and distinctive touch—and the broccoli rabe, lacking most of its typical bitterness, made for easy eating. Topped with a butter sauce lighter than its name might imply, the dish was a success. Our second pasta was one of the evening’s specials: mezza rigatoni (which, indeed, appeared to be half-rigatonis) with roasted garlic, guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon), sundried tomatoes, arugula, and shaved asiago cheese. This was one of the biggest treats of the night, a supremely satisfying combination of earthy, savory flavors. Yum.

I gently applied the brakes on our next course, concerned that if I wasn’t careful, I would be edging out storage space that rightfully belonged to dessert. Our main course was the grilled skirt steak with gorgonzola butter, string beans, and roasted pepper salad. This was the most ordinary dish we were served, but was nonetheless cooked to perfection. I enjoyed a few bites, reconfirmed for myself that I’m no great fan of gorgonzola, and patiently awaited what was to follow. Next up was a selection of cheeses from nearby Stinky Bklyn—what a great name for a cheese place! The presentation was oddly stark (three bits of cheese on a plate, sans accompaniment of any kind), but the cheese was tasty: one mild and semisoft, one harder and sharper, and one bluish.

Ah, dessert. I knew you wouldn’t fail me. This was the only course for which the two of us were each given something different—the better to taste you with, my dear. One was a chocolate terrine with caramel sauce and something slightly buttercrunchy inside, decadent and dreamy. The second was my favorite, Pó’s “world famous” panna cotta with cherries and cherry sauce. “‘World famous?’” I asked Beatrice. “Well,” she said, “it’s just really, really good.” Love this chick. And so it was, with a transcendent texture I couldn’t help envisioning as the perfect mattress for angels—yes, it made me a little delirious—and a sweet, dark sauce that helped to raise the whole yet farther above the standard, overplayed Italian-restaurant panna cotta to dizzying heights of loveliness.

We left Pó Brooklyn tremendously satisfied and—unimaginably—with wallets not bled dry by our indulgence. A $50 tasting menu at this level of quality, or indeed, a level much lower, is unheard of in Manhattan. I knew we moved for a reason. Here’s to you, Pó, for vindicating second-born children everywhere. I can’t wait until we meet again

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