October 2, 2011

Birthday Dinner @ Briscola Trattoria

This year, I chose to have my birthday dinner at Briscola, because I've been reading amazing reviews on this place. All in all, it was a lovely night out with friends, but I had some issues with the restaurant and food itself.
The space was elegant and lovely. We were seated in a comfortable, cozy booth.
We started off with some bread, served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was pretty ordinary, but I loved the balsamic vinegar, which was very thick and sweet. My major problem was that they didn't serve enough bread for the 6 of us (the basket only had 4 pieces) so I had to ask for more. For a restaurant of this class, this oversight was pretty shocking to me.
This was my bellini, and not at all what I expected. For starters, it wasn't sweet at all, and I like my cocktails to be sweet. Perhaps this version is "authentic", but I much prefer the sweet and fruity version from Moxie's.
The bruschetta of the day topped with mushrooms and some kind of cheese that I cannot recall. We got two orders of it to share between the 6 of us. This was decent, but nothing extraordinary. The crostini was a little over-toasted and too crunchy for my liking.
I actually really liked the eggplant parmigiana with tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella. The presentation was gorgeous, with layers of eggplant unfolding like a flower. From the bite that I tried, it tasted pretty good too. My friend really enjoyed her entrée, until she saw the bill later.
Two of us went for the Lombardia pizza with spicy Italian sausage, caramelized onions, basil and mozzarella. I liked the thin, crispy crust, but that's basically the only positive thing I have to say about this pizza. Everything else was utterly unimpressive. The pizza was dry, as was the sausage, and the herb overpowered all the other toppings. My boyfriend kept commenting about this "nasty cheese taste", which I couldn't detect. Regardless, the pizza was definitely a major disappointment for us, which is a shame because I love thin-crust gourmet pizza. 
My foodie friend Mel chose orrecchetti with hot sausage, rapini and Pecorino. I apologize for the bad picture, but perhaps the photo's quality reflected Mel's feelings about her pasta. In fact, I don't think anyone at the table enjoyed it too much. We all thought it was dry and bland. Mel commented that it was similar to what her (Chinese) mom makes at home with leftover pasta. I wouldn't be that harsh, but this definitely was not my favourite. I guess my friends prefer saucy pasta, but I've actually had non-saucy pasta that I really enjoyed, so that wasn't the issue for me.
For myself, I chose pappardelle with bison bolognese and ricotta. Luckily for me, I actually enjoyed this a lot. The bison bolognese was thick, rich, and coated the pasta well. There was an abundance of bison meat (although it tasted like beef to me). The bolognese was very delicious, so no complaints from me regarding my pasta!
This was my friend's order of the same pasta in a bigger portion. The portions didn't seem to differ significantly, except that the dinner portion plate was a lot bigger (but that might be deceiving). I didn't think the larger portion warranted an additional $7. But thankfully, he also found the pasta tasty. So in summary, there were two hits and two misses with the entrées, and the starter was mediocre. Now onto desserts...
Substituting for my birthday cake was Briscola's signature panettone bread pudding with dates, pistachio and vanilla gelato. I have to say that I absolutely loved it. I have a soft spot for anything warm and gooey with caramel, and this fit right into that description. The bread pudding was delectable, and I loved the addition of dates and nuts. Technically, we all shared the dessert, but as the birthday girl, I had the fortune of indulging in a lot of it! 
And then the bill came and we all cringed. On Briscola's website, it clearly indicated that "an automatic 18% gratuity is added to groups of 7 of more". Apparently, they slapped on that 18% even though we were a group of 6. We weren't pleased about this at all. I normally don't have a problem paying a higher gratuity if the service was good, but I thought that the service was not remarkable at all. The bread issue aside, our server wasn't particularly attentive, and it was hard to flag her down. My friend commented that our waiter dripped water over her several times while refilling our glasses. However, since it was a special occasion, we didn't want to make a big fuss over the bill. Though in hindsight, I wish we had said something at the time. Too late now!
I'm not sure I'll be returning to Briscola. My boyfriend, in particular, really hated his pizza and didn't enjoy the restaurant at all. But regardless, I want to thank all of my wonderful friends for making my special day super special! Even though some parts of the meal were disappointing, I thoroughly enjoyed everyone's company and had a lot of fun!
Briscola Trattoria on Urbanspoon


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