Friday, December 9, 2011
New York, NY 10003
We discovered this place after deciding that a 90 minute wait was simply too long for wait for the buns and noodles at Momofuku regardless of how good they were. Oh, and we were really, really hungry. Just around the corner on 10th is Dieci. Its not very big at all and if you go too far down 10th, you're liable to miss it. As you walk in, you immediately notice that the restaurant isn't much bigger than most NYC apartments. I've read that it seats 30 but I'd be hard pressed to figure out how unless people were sitting on top of each other. Regardless, the two times that I've been to Dieci, it's been packed but we were always seated quickly.
The menu is a wonderfully confusing offering of dishes and I think that's the primary reason we decided to first try Dieci, which means ten in Italian so you would assume it is an Italian restaurant. But, when you look at the menu, you not only see Italian inspired dishes but there is a decidedly Japanese quality to the food also. All the servers are Japanese also (and I usually don't comment on service but this place had some of the friendliest, mindful and attentive, without it being forced, servers I've ever been around) so you get more curious to try the food. I wouldn't go as far as to say Dieci is a fusion restaurant, just a place that introduces different ingredients into some modern Italian and Japanese dishes.
The first time we went, we ordered some Primitivo. I had never had Primitivo and while it's not a Barolo, it is definitely high on my wine choices going forward. It was fruity and a bit sweet but still delivered a depth of flavor you expect from an Italian red. Each time I've been here, we've started off with the duck fat edamame and the parmesan brussel sprouts. Edamame cooked in duck fat is such a wonderful concept, the saltiness of the edamame plays well with the richness of the duck fat but not enough to overburden you with grease. The brussel sprouts crisped and sprinkled with parmesan are tasty as you would expect but can be gotten in any Italian restaurant. We've tried both the Foie Gras Chawanmushi and the Miso Infused Foie Gras. You can't really go wrong with foie gras and introduction of some classic Japanese elements into foie gras make these dishes twice as appealing.
The classic Japanese Tekka Don and Salmon & Ikura Don while not radically different are prepared exquisitely and a great palate cleanser for the next course. The flavors are fresh and clean (especially the salmon) and probably something I would eat every day if I could. We also managed to fit in their pork belly buns which were very traditional and not quite the level of the place around the corner but nonetheless solid and tasty. Besides, who doesn't love pork belly?
The main courses we've sampled were the stars of the night. The Spicy Lamb Bolognese with Rame Noodles is a revelation. Ramen Noodles! Fresh! The unique flavor of the ramen noodles combined with just a little kick from a well made bolognese made me re-think this Italian classic as a strictly Italian dish. The Homemade black Tagliolini was simply sublime. It was a simple, composed, Italian dish of squid ink pasta with a fresh tomato sauce yet it was something I found to be craving and thinking about long after I left Dieci.
I can't say I remember our desserts very well since the meal was so great. I do remember that they were delicious and you can't go wrong with any choice there. The combination of food, atmosphere, service and pleasant surprises firmly places Dieci as a restaurant I would glad revisit over and over again. It is dangerously close to possibly displacing Dell'Anima as my favorite go-to place in NYC.