So here we are at Little Giant (Lower East Side). The sun is actually shining this time. A perfect Saturday evening is unfolding before our eyes (I know it is a perfect day when I sing Lou Reed’s “oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you” for myself – no kidding).
I love the decor of the restaurant, there is a table on the terrace and Florent and I can sip our cocktails there – and we end up eating there as well. The menu sounds promising, all the more that there are some ingredients I quite don’t understand – and one in particular that pops up almost everywhere in the menu: RAMPS.
“Euh, excuse me, miss, please – what are “ramps” ?
“It’s a wild leek – tastes between a leek and a scallion.
Niiiiiiiiice, I thought: the sweetness of the leek with an onion twist.
So, as I said, it all started well, with a truly homy yet designy decor. Florent, his cousin, his uncle and I ordered some of the “nibbles” well, to nibble on. The deviled eggs were a bit too dry for me, not enough mayo, quoi. I liked the ricotta in the braised artichokes: very rich. The artichokes were not very tasty though. I really liked the warm spinach & feta dip. I couldn’t quite taste the feta in there , but it reminded me of a dish I loved when I was a kid. My mother’s ex-boyfriend’s mother (my mother’s love life is…complicated) used to make it for me for Sunday lunch. That’s how I learned to like spinach: it was a very rich and creamy spinach gratin, with the spinach du jardin and a nice thick bechamel. Delicious. And Little Giant is right to serve this as a nibble. It is pretty heavy, as you can imagine. So, Little Giant: for your Spinach Feta Dip – I am eternally grateful.
So far so good – or at least OK. I can’t say I was hugely impressed by the appetizers (besides the Feta dip, that is), but I was in good company and I liked the waitress (efficient but not in your face). In fact, we were in such a good mood that we barely noticed that 30 minutes had passed and our entrees were still not served. Let me be clear here: I hate, HATE when you are barely done with your appetizers and they already serve the entrees. I may have a big appetite (and I think Florent tends to think that my appetite is really too big these days) but I need time between my dish, so that I can look forward to the next dish. Donc, a good 45 minutes after we finished our “nibbles”, entrees were served. And that’s when disappointment arised. Big time.
We had a ramp theme going on on our table. I was rooting for the “ramps & orrecchiette, with ramp puree & braised ramps, poached organic egg & bread crumbs” but was keeping a close eye on Florent’s “veal shortribs, all-natural milk-fed veal, sauteed ramps stone-ground grits, roasted cherry tomatoes”. Let’s start with my dish:
- the pasta was al dente – much to my liking;
- braised ramps. What? Braised ramps? Where? Believe me I looked. But I couldn’t find them. So I asked:
“Excuse me euh sorry to ask but, where are the braised ramps please (and sorry again)? Well, they are in the sauce. Ah, ok”*
I was not convinced by her answer. Don’t mention braised ramps if they are not visible on my plate.
- and then the taste. Well, let’s just say ramps are very, very powerful, more on the garlic side than the leek side of the family. And that’s something I would have liked to know before ordering. Second, I am a firm believer of using garlic & onions in reasonable amounts. Florent doesn’t like garlic or onions so I have to play tricks. Here, I couldn’t finish my plate. Which is highly, highly unusual (to Florent’s great despair). Since then, I did a little research. Turns out it is a wild leek – which smells & taste half way between garlic & scallions and looks similar to scallions. It’s harvested in the Appalachians and apparently they go crazy over that little thing there. There’s a Ramp Festival, and even an entire website dedicated to wild leeks recipes.
Let’s focus on Florent’s plate now:
- Sauteed ramps? Check . And it was not nearly as strong as my ramps puree (or maybe my palate was numb after the orecchiette)
- Stone-ground grits. Ok, that definitely sounds cool and natural and fancy too. But does it imply that I can actually feel the grains of grits under my teeth? Well, not in my world. In my world, polenta – and grits are all about creaminess, smoothness and tenderness. Ok, there might be some graininess involved too. But these grits were not cooked enough.
- Veal shortrib : tenderness? Check. But the ribs were white. I mean there was no color or crispiness there. It was a bit sad.
So yes, I was disappointed. Luckily the desserts made everything better. I am not usually not a fan of desserts but I would give a big high five for the sticky toffee pudding. And the lemon-ricotta fritters with lemon curd were also very light and the tanginess of the curd was nicely counterbalanced by the ricotta…
Sadly, the bill came. L’addition etait plutot salee.…$90 per person (we did order two bottles of wine though).
Would I go back? Well…maybe. First because I completely trust Catherine’s tastes, (she recommended the restaurant) and I am pretty sure that she had a very nice meal when she went there. Also, they change their menu all the time (they are all about seasonality, organic, all-natural, etc.) and I certainly commend them for using unusual ingredients. And, they made me want to try and cook ramps (if I ever find any).*I have to say that, to my despair, I am not the most assertive kind of gal. I hate scandals and people yelling and am usually a perfect well-behaved costumer.