March 20, 2012

Maléna with Dining Date Night

I've been meaning to try out Malena for a while, and Dining Date Night gave me the perfect excuse to do so.
The dining room, tucked in century-old home, was small but elegantly homey.
Our reservation was for 8:30 on a Friday night, and by this time, there was only one other occupied table in the restaurant that was already on the dessert course. We were both quite surprised about the emptiness given that it was a Friday night.
Soon after placing our orders, we were served two types of bread with olive oil- focaccia with fennel seeds and some sort of sourdough, I can't remember exactly. The focaccia was particularly excellent. It had an incredibly spongy texture, almost reminiscent of a sponge cake. It was so dense and satisfying, and the fennel seeds added such a lovely dimension.
It was a bit unseasonal to order a winter caesar salad ($14) at the onset of spring. And it was probably a bad choice for a warm evening because it was such a hearty salad. The plate consisted of garlic sautéed kale, white anchovy, bacon, focaccia and cauliflower purée. I missed the usual crunch and lightness of the romaine lettuce. In comparison, the kale felt quite damp and heavy. The components that I did enjoy were the focaccia and cauliflower purée. But other than that, I didn't care for the salad.
After the disappointing salad, our meal headed to a positive direction, starting with fior di latte mozzarella arancini ($15) with caramelized onions, aged balsamic and mustard seeds. They were delightfully crispy on the outside and hot and gooey on the inside. I also loved the pairing with the tangy balsamic and mustard seeds, and I wanted more of that.   
Of course I couldn't resist deep fried seafood! Fritto misto del giorno ($16)- the daily selection of fresh fried seafood and vegetables included calamari, oyster, and zucchini, with black olive tapenade and fresh lemon. I wasn't a great fan of the olive dip, but everything was so fresh and tasty that a squeeze of lemon was sufficient. My favourite component was (surprisingly) the fried zucchini!
I've always been so curious to try something 'sous vide' so it wasn't a hard decision to order the roasted 'sous vide' chicken ($25)-house made mostarda, potato purée and farm fresh egg yolk. 'Sous vide' is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time (I watch too much Top Chef!) As a result, the chicken was incredibly tender and juicy. There's nothing I hate more than dry and overcooked chicken, and in this case, the meat was cooked to perfection and the doneness was uniform throughout. On top of that, the potato purée was absolutely scrumptious. I have nothing but praise for this entrée, and I'm certainly eager to try more "sous vide" dishes in the future!
My love for apple pie drove me to order this apple pie cannoli ($10) as my dessert. The crispy fried pastry rolls were filled with cinnamon mascarpone, candied pecans, and accompanied by apple caramel.
Here is another view of the cannoli, no candied pecans on the back side though. I've never really liked cannoli all that much, but this version definitely won over me. The cinnamon mascarpone filling and the apple caramel really brought out flavours reminiscent of the apple pie, but the usual rich buttery crust is replaced by the fried pastry roll. I really enjoyed this refreshing take on a traditional dessert.
For Jeremy, the dark chocolate smores torte ($10) was a no-brainer choice, as it had all the makings of a great dessert- white chocolate crackers, honey marshmallow, and dark chocolate sauce. It was also visually stunning, and I couldn't wait to dig into it. I personally preferred my apple pie cannoli, though the smores torte was undeniably delicious as well. For me, the dark chocolate sauce was a little too intense, but of course Jeremy, being a dark chocolate fanatic, loved every bite. On the whole, I thought both desserts were fantastic!
With the exception of the salad, the meal was truly wonderful! My favourites were the "sous vide" chicken and the apple pie cannoli. This time, we saved $27.30 with our 30% Dining Date Night discount. But I still couldn't understand why the restaurant was so empty on a Friday night. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the meal, and I look forward to checking out their sister restaurant l'unità.
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