Sunday, November 18, 2007
So it was a toss-up between Petit Louis and the Wolfe-Foreman duo's newest conception, Cinghiale. Mr.S and I were itching to go out for a nice meal, good wine, and some heavy duty pampering. Generally, Italian usually isn't at the top of my list, but I can't lie when I say that I wasn't just a bit intrigued by this new enoteca-osteria, with an extensive hand-picked wine list, and a name like Cinghiale, which means wild boar.
The earthy mosaic tiling and deep woods give the place a wonderfully rich, warm, vintage ambiance. The bar runs the full gambit against the length of the back wall, sweet and inviting, while an antipasti bar flanks the right side of the restaurant, in full view of diners. Deep bowls of marinated calamari, cannelini beans, olives, and pastas, lie in wait to be dished onto platters, next to freshly shaved salamis, prosciutto, and cheeses.
The layout of the restaurant is versatile- split into two distinct but congruent styles of dining, the enoteca and osteria. The former is toward the right side of the restaurant, more casual, open, and conducive to sharing chatter, laughs, and wine with your neighbors. The latter, being more elegant, hosts a variety of table set-ups, including a more private room for a more intimate experience. There was a very familiar feel to the place, altogether friendly and inviting, while still retaining a certain level of finesse.
Our server was more than knowledgeable about the menu, and explained how it was set up. The first course being cold dishes, second course pastas (with the option of half and full orders), and the third course meats and fish. Much recommended in appetizers was Le Seppie, a cuttlefish stew over a soft mound of white polenta. We ordered the Kobe beef carpaccio, with arugula, extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts, and a roasted beet salad with frisée and gorgonzola. The beef, thinly pounded, was deeply hued, tender and clean-tasting. It did need a bit of acid, so we asked for a lemon wedge. That rounded out the dish quite nicely. The beets were earthy and sweet, the frisée a little too heavily salted, but all the elements worked together in concert. I particularly enjoyed the addition of chives to the dish, another layer of flavor that worked well.
I started with a glass of Gavi di Gavi Broglia, a delicious full-bodied white, with strong notes of crisp apple, cherry, and a subtle almond finish.
For the next course Mr.S ordered tortellini stuffed with Springfield Farms rabbit, served with shaved black truffle. Mind-blowingly good. Incredibly savory, with just the right amount of cheese as to not be considered overly rich, yet still indulgent. For myself, the pan-seared duck breast came highly recommended. It was served in its own jus, with a celery root purée, Grappa-soaked concord grapes, and a "pesto" of ground anise, coriander, allspice, honey, and other earthy spices. The duck was cooked medium-rare, perfectly done, although I wished the skin had been better crisped. The sweet autumnal flavors perfectly complimented the duck, especially the spicy pesto with the drunken grapes. Needless to say, we were both proud members of the Clean Plate Club last night.
The desserts looked too good to pass up. We decided to share the spice-poached pear over creamy arborio rice pudding, served with a crispy Gianduja bar. Eating it was like falling in love all over again. The best part for me was the rice pudding, so creamy and rich and wonderfully spiced. Our kind and animated server brought us a round of prosecco, on the house.
Like the rest of the Wolfe-Foreman restaurants, Cinghiale is decidedly unique and already, by the looks of it from a busy Saturday dinner rush, a success. What I enjoyed most was yes, the food, but more so the refreshing ambiance. Italian eateries tend to be stuffy and traditionally-dressed, which can be a real turnoff when you are looking to go out with friends for drinks. Cinghiale had a warm, urban feel, with a good mix of a younger and more mature crowd. There was an exciting buzz in the air, a sure sign of satisfied eaters and wine connoisseurs. We left the metropolitan eatery feeling giddy, full, and well taken care of, and definitely anxious to come back.
822 Lancaster Street
Baltimore, MD 21202