after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Modo Mio: Veni Vidi Vici

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t says: Yes, g and I write about Melograno … a LOT.  We just had not experienced Italian fare as delicious as Melograno at a similar price point … Well, let me rephrase … Mercato is equally as delightful, but a bit further away from us, and yes, Amis, Osteria, and Vetri all have wonderful refined-meets-rustic food, however, these have higher prices when you take into account the smaller portions and BYO-lessness.  Well, there was one BYO that we had heard of that promised to deliver delicious food at a reasonable price with a classic Philly BYO atmosphere: Modo Mio.  a and v had wanted to go for some time as well, so we joined forces and trekked on over to NoLibs (I kind of hate that name the more I say it …).

11/2010, Friday 9pm, Party of 5.  We showed up precisely at 9pm – we could not have planned it more perfectly if we tried.  I had a bottle of red ready to go, having been decanted for an hour, and our dinnermates brought a few of their own as well.  This was going to be fun … eventually.  As soon as we got there, we were told that they were running behind and that they were trying to free up our table.  I figured, “ok – maybe there’s a party that just hasn’t gotten their check yet”.  But then the minutes started flying by …  At fifteen minutes, we had watched the hostess seat a few couples/parties that had been waiting before us, but there were still a fare number jammed into the tiny little “holding area” (there was one door leading to the outside and one door leading to the dining room).  We were a little irritated.  g, on the other hand, had resorted to handing out gum as appetite suppressants – our party was hungry.  I coped pretty well, as I had eaten a late lunch, and thankfully I did because no one wants to be around a hungry t.  g suggested that I give them my “starving-child-from-a-poor-country-on-tv” look, but no one deserves to see that …

At the half-hour mark, the hostess came out and started handing out wine glasses to members of parties other than ours (she kind of pretended we weren’t there), apologizing for the wait – nevermind that we had waited longer than anyone else.  What was funny was that she actually ran out of glasses to hand out, forcing some of those people to share – I guess the kitchen was still trying to clean up some glasses in the back?

At the forty minute mark, v confided in us, “guys – don’t say anything – I’ll handle it – I’m really good with Comcast …”  Apparently v has had ample past experience in negotiating with Comcast for free channels and cheaper rates (I think she calls every 6 months or so); she felt that her negotiating skills would be able to get us some free food or cheaper rates, I suppose.  Personally, at that point, I was wondering if we were actually going to eat there at all that night!

At 55 minutes, we were promised a table “in three minutes”.  And sure enough – we were shown to a table with five seats at 10pm.  Yikes – a one-hour wait despite having a reservation?  In retrospect, I realize that we were never actually told an estimate of the amount of time it would be until we got a table – it always seemed like “a few more minutes” – even though the hostess never actually said that until the very end.  Hmmmm – I wonder what would have happened if they said, “that’ll be an hour wait” up front?  I guess we’ll never know, now …

As we sat down, a and v formulated “the plan”.  “The plan” was that v was going to have a word with our server about our wait and whether something could be done to compensate.  For the life of me, this did not sound like an idea that would produce a positive result – after all – we did wait for them even though we technically had the option of leaving … I felt that they should be giving us free stuff without us even having to ask – but of course, that only happens in fairy tales and at Sampan.

Then, a plate of bruschetta hit the table, compliments of the chef, because of our wait.  a looked at v and said, “oh no – this doesn’t make up for anything.”  (Actually, a might have not have said “anything”, rather, other choice words … I can’t remember … but we’ll keep it clean.)  So, none of us touched the bruschetta until after v had a word with the server.  Now, I have no idea what v said.  She was very quiet about it, which perhaps the server and restaurant appreciated.  And to be honest, it sounded kind of like the server was less-than-willing to give us anything for free – clinging to the usual excuses of “we’re really sorry about that – it’s just really hard when just one table takes too long then it throws everyone off, yada yada yada.”  But somehow, v did work some magic!  The server came back from the kitchen and said that the chef will send out extra courses with our meal.  That sounded pretty good.  The kitchen would get to use up ingredients they couldn’t save ’til the next day, and we’d get free food – excellent!

Amidst all of this negotiating, a noted that the place was VERY loud.  Actually, it might have been the loudest BYO that I’ve ever been to.  a, who’s not a very quiet person by nature, was using his full-on “outside voice”, and v, who normally has to rein him in for being too loud, remarked, “you know – in here, he’s actually not loud at all!”.  I guess we found a place for him to really let loose.  My favorite a-isms for the night include his version of speaking fluent Italian and shouting at the top of his lungs the first and last names of a politician interspersed with curse words.

How was the food?  Well, we sampled a LOT of dishes – the five of us each got the “tour” deal (4 courses for $33).  And then add on the “extras”.  I’ll list the ones I had/remember and let the others take over at their convenience …

The grilled calf tongue dish I had was quite tasty, however, the tongue, itself, was a bit tough.  I guess I imagined it would have had a similar texture to the veal tongue I had at Zahav, but grilling is different than braising, so that’s my fault.  If nothing else, it was yet another cut of meat that I can now say I have had!

I had the gnocchi pasta which was very nice.  The gnocchi, itself, was a solid performer – softer/more luxurious than at Gnocchi, but not quite the cloud-like consistency of Osteria’s potato gnocchi.  The gorgonzola sauce was intensely rich – I couldn’t finish the dish – and this was surprising to me because they don’t give you a huge amount of pasta – but I was definitely crying uncle by the end.

g had the crab-ricotta cake.  It was funny because normally people brag about how their crabcakes have “no fillers, all crab”.  But not here.  It was like “yea, we have crab and ricotta … got a problem with that?”  Actually, it was delicious.  On one hand, it was very decadently crabby – the ricotta didn’t mask any of the crab.  Instead, the ricotta brought a nice flavor and texture of its own – I think this combo needs to be put together more often!

g also had the bucatini amatriciana.  I sampled some and was quite impressed with the flavors – they weren’t quite as smokey-salty-prosciutto-y or as spicy as at Melograno, but there was some sort of richness with the tomato that was seductive.  The pasta might have been a bit more al dente than I’m used to, but I liked it!

g and I both had the braised lamb cheek as our mains.  The sauce was quite good with cherries, some other sweet-n-sour fruit, and a nice savory meaty taste.  The lamb cheek itself was very good in taste, although I felt that it wasn’t the most tender piece of braised cheek I have ever had.  On one hand, maybe lamb cheek just doesn’t get that tender, but I find that hard to believe.  The meat was also streaked with glorious, glorious fat – but even that wasn’t quite as melt-in-your-mouth as I was hoping.  Texture aside, the taste of the dish, itself, was quite good.  I wish I knew all of the components that went into the braise as it was a combination that I’d like to try at home with some short ribs!

a says: I believe Lolita is the loudest/cramped byo that still produces food worth returning for – modo mio is a close second. a must also admit that v is certainly his better half and handled this situation with aplomb. A restaurant should, without prompting, rectify a mistake this large, but a doubts this would have happened without v’s thoughtful intervention.

Overall, none of the wines a provided blew him away. There was a mediocre pinot grigio (2009) and a decent Monastrell from Bleda (2008).

For starters, the capesante had a scallop cooked to perfection resting on a small salad but the Prosciutto di Parma seemed misplaced. The pasta course, gnocchi, was thick without being heavy, however, paired with a Gorgonzola-cream sauce, seemed too rich. My secondi was duck wrapped in prosciutto which is a dish I doubt could be bad, anywhere. The duck was good, not great, and I believe the proscuitto was used as “bait” – much like bacon or butter, it will be enjoyable on any dish but does it complement the main ingredient, bringing it to a higher plane. Similar to the capesante, I think the overall result was less focused.

The highlight of the evening, oddly enough, was an “extra;” their homemade lasagna topped with a fried egg. The lasagna was complex and delicious, and only made better with the yolk of the egg. Supplying us with the entire dessert menu was appreciated and a nice touch. The tiramisu stood out but after that much food, I can’t say much else.

The menu turista is definitely one of the best deals in the city, if you don’t mind a bottle-of-wine wait for your table (possibly).

t says: In retrospect, I suppose that it’s clear that Modo Mio was not a flawless restaurant.  There was “the wait” and also some hiccups in the food … but for some reason, I would definitely want to try it again.  Was it the company?  Was it the wine?  I don’t know – but the food, even with the flaws, still had these decadent strokes of genius throughout (e.g. that egg-on-the-lasagna was my favorite dish, too!).  All in all, it was definitely worth the price of admission …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 November 2010 at 4:47pm

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