Being restaurant week we decided to finally pop into Erbaluce, a somewhat hidden Italian restaurant on the border of Bay Village and Back Bay. Though I can't say I've ever really noticed anyone coming in or out of it, at 6:30 on a Friday evening it was hopping. We were by far the youngest people there by perhaps 30 years, but we took the fact that the restaurant was full of well-to-do-looking older men and women as a sign that it must be good ;-) We were immediately seated at a table for two in the dimly-lit main dining room. I must say I was underwhelmed by the ambiance - it was quite dark, the walls were mostly bare, and the tables were non-descript looking, but it was by no means uncomfortable or unwelcoming.
We were first served a delicious white bean pureed with a number of herbs, nutmeg, and cinnamon, along with freshly baked bread. This was outstanding, and we could have sworn there was heavy cream or something rich and creamy in it, but this was not the case, and it was quite healthy. Bottles of wine were on the pricey side and all from Italy, so we decided to just order a glass each, both of which were very nice. To start I had the orange and rosemary cured organic salmon with a chicory salad and pink peppercorn dressing. The pink peppercorns, actually small tart berries, were very interesting and contrasted nicely with the sweet orange flavor and the saltiness of the salmon. For me you can never go wrong with cured fish or any sort. Chris had the
white cornmeal polenta with marinated tomatoes and gorgonzola dolce, a simple but tasty take on polenta.
For my main dish I went with the whole steamed Jonah crab with crab and celery risotto. I always feel a little bit strange hacking away at a shellfish carcass while in a nice restaurant, but I couldn't resist. The risotto was very good and had a strong celery flavor to it, but I was disappointed with the amount of crabmeat that was both in the risotto and in the crab claws and legs, themselves. Chris' pan-roasted Newport steak with a lemon, thyme, and white pepper sauce, on the other hand, was very satisfying and perfectly cooked.
We ended up waiting quite some time before our desserts came out, but eventually our chocolate and tart cherry bread pudding
and tortella of local apples with almond cream arrived. The tortella was essentially deep fried dough but very light and airy, and the almond cream was very nice. The chocolate and tart cherry bread pudding was simple but good, though I could have used a bit more of the dark cherry flavor. Finally, as we waited for the check, we were served some complimentary homemade truffles, which was a nice touch.
Overall I can't say I was in love with Erbaluce but I would definitely give it a second try when it isn't restaurant week. The special for the night, a braised rabbit stuffed with liver and truffle something or other sounded absolutely divine, and a number of the other menu items sounded quite enticing.