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Our first Restaurant Week 2012 review is of Tosca, an upscale but not snobby Italian restaurant in Metro Center. It has long been my favorite for Restaurant Week, especially since they used to make their full regular menu available for it. This year Tosca offered a modified menu for Restaurant Week, but the selection for vegetarians was still very nice. There is a lot to cover food-wise so we’ll get right to it.

We’d contacted Tosca several days before our reservation to confirm that certain items were vegetarian. They very graciously responded that yes, the squash blossoms could be prepared without the anchovy puree and that the chef could make the risotto with vegetable stock for us. Our dining companions wondered if that was only because we’d let them know about this blog. Meera and I are pretty sure we don’t have that kind of clout. So contact Tosca ahead of time if you’d like to request such adjustments; their staff are very understanding and willing to help.

Without us even asking, our server brought each of us a refreshing little cup of watermelon soup to start. He noted that the usual starter was not vegetarian and they’d brought this especially for us. It was cool and slightly sweet with a savory undertone.

For the first course, our choices were:

  • Insalata mista organica delle fattorie al condimento di aceto balsamico e olio novello – Mixed organic local greens salad with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dressing
  • Mozzarella di bufala Campana con selezione di pomodori al forno e salsa cremosa all’aglio e basilico – Imported buffalo Mozzarella with roasted tomatoes and a creamy garlic-basil sauce
  • Insalata di radicchio e pere con terrina di Gorgonzola e noci candite – Salad of radicchio and Bartlett pears with imported Gorgonzola cheese terrine and toasted walnuts
  • Fiori di zucca fritti ripieni di Mascarpone e basilico con insalata di ravanello e ruchetta – Deep fried squash blossoms filled with Mascarpone cheese and basil, with an arugala and radish salad

Our table ordered all but the radicchio and pear salad (which we’ve had before and is good). The salad was serviceable and a good choice to avoid filling up at the beginning. The mozzarella was nice but the tomatoes, while tasty, seemed to have been refrigerated (such a crime, especially with flavorful summer tomatoes).

We’d been looking forward to the squash blossoms, but they were disappointingly bland and greasy. There was too much batter and they simply tasted like fried, instead of being delicate crispy vehicles for the cheese and herbs inside. Perhaps a bit of basil or sun-dried tomato pesto should have been substituted for the anchovy puree to add some flavor.

Main courses included:

  • Risotto ode al Piemonte: Raschera, Barolo e nero di Piemonte – Risotto with Raschera cheese, Barolo wine and black truffle
  • Pasta alla chitarra integrale con salsa di pomodoro e pomodorini ciliegi – Housemade whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes
  • Tortelli ripieni di pomodori heirloom saltati all’acqua di pomodoro e pesto al basilico – Tortelli pasta filled with heirloom tomatoes and ricotta cheese, with tomato water and basil pesto

We had the risotto and the tortelli. We did confirm that the spaghetti dish can be made vegan using dry pasta, allowing one to have a three course vegan meal at Tosca (with insalata mista and sorbet for dessert). They are also willing to create grilled vegetable plates and such, which is nice to know.

Risotto first: Wow. Best. Flavor. Ever. This dish was just bursting with umami richness, smoothly melding the flavors of the wine, cheese and black truffle. It needed a bit more more cooking, as the innermost bit of each grain of rice was crunchy-raw. And as a main dish it could have used a vegetable – maybe some spinach, asparagus or peas – for balance. Still, all was forgiven for that deep flavor.

The tortelli was fantastic as well, al dente with a creamy ricotta filling and served with really excellent light pesto that let basil at peak season shine.

The dessert course is usually the time when vegetarians can order anything on the menu, and Tosca did not disappoint with its selection:

  • Tiramisu tiepido moderno – Chef’s modernized Tiramisu
  • Gelati e Sorbetti – Homemade daily selection of ice cream and sorbet
  • Tortino al rosmarino e granturco con cremoso al limone e marmellata di mirtilli – Rosemary-cornmeal shortbread with lemon cremoso and blueberry compote
  • Tortino al cioccolato caldo con caramello al frutto della passion, sbrisolona al cioccolato bianco e gelato alla vaniglia – Warm chocolate cake with passion fruit caramel, white chocolate crumble and vanilla gelato
  • Selezione di fromaggi Italiani con marmellate e guarnizioni fatte in casa – Selection of Italian cheeses with homemade marmalades and condiments

We had the tiramisu, rosemary-cornmeal shortbread, and chocolate cake. The layered tiramisu (served in a martini glass) was light and rich at once, and made you want to dip your spoon to the bottom to get a mouthful of mascarpone. The chocolate balls added a nice crunchy texture to the lovely, boozy mix.

The lemon cremoso accompanying the rosemary shortbread was oddly too tart and eggy, so we wouldn’t recommend that one. The chocolate cake was indulgent and paired well with the sumptuous passion fruit caramel.

The only thing that could have improved it was more gelato, as the one small cannelle left us in a bit of a Got Milk? situation. Had I asked for more, the the kind staff would surely have brought it, but I decided to save my friends from having to roll me home.

Go to Tosca for your next special occasion. The service is first-rate and your meal will be delicious.

1112 F St. NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 367-1990

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