A few mini-reviews from places I’ve hit over the last few weeks.
Columbia’s swankiest lounge is heavy on small plates and black marble, a little light on speed and quality assurance. My second visit at lunch was marked by a 20 minute wait for a bowl of soup, which strangely came out with my main course, the beef and brick sandwich. The soup was thick, chipotle-flavored lava; I couldn’t come near it until polishing off my bland, dry roast beef sandwich. They were out of sweet potato fries, so I went with the string fries, which came out so thin and potato-less I could have been eating matchsticks for all I knew.
After twenty minutes the chipotle soup had fallen to merely scalding temperatures and really was quite tasty.
I’d be curious to hear from others as to how they’ve found Room 38’s food. It’s clear there’s a lot of interest in the place, and I wish them the best, but so far it’s been hit or miss.
I’m not sure what would possess someone to order the “SLAP YA MAMMA’ MEAL SPECIAL,” an unfortunate mess of “smoked sausage, potatoes, green peppers, onions, mushrooms soup and Cajun ‘Slap Ya Mamma’ Seasoning.” But I grew up on cream of mushroom soup casseroles and still like me a Stretch every now and then, so I went ahead. I won’t belabor the point, it just wasn’t very good.
Thankfully it came with CC’s excellent fried fish strips and brown beans. They’re still very good, and much lighter than downtown’s Mississippi Fish Shack.
I’ve seen a number of people call the food at Cafe Berlin bland, but that’s not exactly right. It’s just undersalted, something imminently fixable. Given a (fairly hefty) sprinkle of the stuff, everything I’ve had has been transformed instantly. It’s adorably hippy-ish, commendably local and best for breakfast. And their coffee is excellent.
My first visit to The Rome was an exercise in contrasts. A lame attempt at an antipasti platter followed by a very nice lasagne. Today brought more of the same. I ordered the Veal ala Roma with gnocchi. It’s described as two breaded veal cutlets with prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiched in between. What came out was truly remarkable. Richly garlic-scented and eye-catching, the enormous platter caught me completely by surprise. The sweet peppers and mushrooms and gnocchi looked wonderful. Chunks of garlic testified that someone made this from scratch.
And the veal. It was wonderful. Crispy and tender, with just enough prosciutto and cheese to make things interesting. It’s the best I’ve had in many moons. But then, the oil. Distracted by the overall beauty of the plate I’d missed the fact that my veal and gnocchi swam in a sea of oil – and the gnocchi were gummy and weak.
The oil seemed more like an excessive drizzle at the end than something that had separated out from the cheese during cooking; it wasn’t greasy, just like someone had looked away while topping it off with a little extra virgin at the end. Still, it was extremely tasty, and generous enough to take back to work for lunch tomorrow.