This week, I was invited at Incognito Bistro in the Flatiron District for a press dinner. I was very intrigued by the description of the restaurant: "Roman with Scottish flair"! I was already imagining some strange fusion dishes like black pudding lasagna or haggis pizza. It is not the case: the Chef, who is from Scotland, introduced a Scottish corner, featuring some traditional dishes that I was lucky to try that evening.
So here I am at Incognito Bistro, greeted by the owners, Adriana Moretti and Chef Paolo Montana, with a glass of prosecco. Both of them are Scottish Italian (on top of that, Paolo having an Irish mother), raised in Glasgow, explaining why there is this "Scottish flair". Right away, I understand that it will be a fun dinner thanks to their personalities that made me feel like I was eating dinner at a friend's home!
|Chef Paolo Montana (Press photo)|
One particularity of the restaurant is that it is the only one in New York City to showcase the Italian Tartan from designer Michael Lemetti, that brings together the Italian and Scottish cultures (there are more than 60,000 Scottish with Italian roots in Scotland). So, if you go to Incognito Bistro, look at the ties of the staff!
|Italian Tartan (Press photo)|
The restaurant has three sections: the bar with a warm and casual feel.
The main dining room, with a more elegant setting and an impressive wraparound champagne color banquette.
Then, a smaller room, with 40 seats, perfect for private parties or for celebrities to be apart from the regular crowd and the autograph chasers! The walls are covered with either abstract paintings from Patricia Moretti, Adriana's mother, or beautiful black and white photographs of European dining scenes.
In the back, is the kitchen that I got the chance to see.
Yes, it is the base of a pizza that you see and pizza was in fact the first course!
It was a fennel and mushroom pizza with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The crust was thin and crispy, a bit puffed up on the outside. What I love the most was the freshness of the vegetables and I truly appreciated that it was fresh mushrooms, and lots of them! I was a bit worried at the beginning that the fennel would be overpowering, but it was not the case at all. Last point to mention: there was a lot of mozzarella!
The second dish was braised octopus:
I love octopus! I admit that I was secretly hoping they would serve it after reading the menu at home! This dish was made with capers, anchovies, olives, black beans (what? Black beans in an Italian dish?) and a tomato broth. The octopus was very good and tender. The overall dish is pretty successful with different components that, although can have pronounced flavors, like the capers or anchovies, work well together. For sure, they add some saltiness to the dish, a bit much, but it is easily forgotten.
Then we got the beef carpaccio, served with rucola, parmigiano cheese and truffle essence.
When the dish came, my nose immediately picked up the truffle essence. You probably wonder, like me, what truffle essence is compared to truffle oil? Truffle essence is a synthetic concoction recreating the scent and taste of real truffle oil. For that reason, you get it for a cheaper price. At least, to write on the menu that it is truffle essence is honest and know that lots of oils named "truffle oil" are also made synthetically instead of being truly infused with truffles.
I liked the presentation of the carpaccio: nice colors with a bit of marbling on the thin sliced beef. I liked it, but would have like a bit more oil on the plate or at least on the rucola.
Then, they served us s nice red Italian wine: a Montepulciano.
The next dish was a soup made with roasted tomatoes, tuscan bread and...Greek olive oil!
I loved it! It was a very comforting dish that combined successfully the robust savor of the roasted tomatoes with the sweetness of the olive oil. Unfortunately, this dish is not on the menu and was only the soup of the day! I would definitely put it on the menu!
Then came the first Scottish dish: Highland Haggis!
Haggis is in fact considered The National dish of Scotland. The definition on Wikipedia is for sure not as appealing as the photo can be:
"Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours".
The one from Chef Paolo was made of: lamb sausage (with oats - Mc Cann's Irish oatmeal brand that we could see in the kitchen from the dining room!), turnips, creamed potatoes and whisky jus. Now, forget the definition I just gave you! This dish was very good and the Chef succeeded in making an elegant version of it! Although we had a smaller quantity because it was a tasting, I found it light with a nice balance of flavors. The whisky jus was perfect: the alcohol content was reduced so it did not overwhelm the dish and definitely contributed to the success of the dish.
Then we had a pasta tasting. Interestingly, only few pastas are homemade: the ravioli and capellini if I remember. For the others, they use Barilla pasta. Adriana told us that is because the taste of al dente pasta is different between homemade and boxed pasta and they have been raised with the boxed one so prefer it.
It was composed of:
Butternut squash ravioli, mascarpone sauce and green peas:
Believe it or not, but the part I liked the most was the sauce! Rich and creamy, with a smooth taste. Adding the peas gave some texture. The ravioli was ok for me: a bit too thick, it sometimes overshadowed the delicious butternut squash filling.
The risotto - afumicato:
What was interesting about this dish is that everybody was trying to figure out where the bacon was as it was smokey. We were all wrong: this dish is vegetarian and the smokiness was coming from the cheese! It was good, but I am not sure I could eat a full plate of it.
That was my favorite pasta dish and apparently a very popular one at Incognito bistro! It was penne pasta with crumbled sweet sausage, marinara sauce, chilies and ricotta. The penne were cooked al dente and that rich sauce was to die for! Yes, it was rich and spicy, with bold flavors, but comforting at the same time. Definitely a dish I recommend!
Then came another wonderful dish: the Isle of Skye scallops:
It was for sure a big piece of scallop and what you see on the left is the roe, that is most of the time served in Europe, but not in the US. It has a very rich, smooth and sweet taste. I finished it first! Then on the right was the scallop: perfectly cooked, it had this fantastic parmesan crust that added some crunch and salt to the scallop. It rested on a nice creamy bed of mashed potatoes. This was a very elegant and rich dish: another favorite!
The scallops were paired with a glass of Chardonnay:
Then, for the last entree, we had another taste of Scottish cuisine: Ayrshire pork with Stornoway black pudding, apple julienne, a sort of twice baked slice of potato, some caramelized onions and a grain mustard sauce.
The Stornoway black pudding (Stornoway is a city in Scotland) is a blood sausage. Interesting to see all the different versions of blood sausages across Europe: from Black pudding to boudin noir in France or morcilla in Spain. There are also different texture: from soft to dry. This was deliciously dry and homemade. The pork was perfectly cooked, tender and moist, perfect with a bit of caramelized onions for some sweetness or with just some grain mustard sauce that was very tasty. This was another Scottish dish that I appreciated!
At this point, I started to be very full...But I could not refuse some dessert, especially after seeing this:
I had two favorites, although all were good: first was the chocolate torte with a salted caramel sauce.
It was a soft and creamy chocolate cake that paired very well with the caramel, and the combination was not too sweet. But rich! This is the kind of dessert that chocolate lovers would appreciate.
The second favorite is called a cranachan:
It is a mascarpone cream with meringue and toasted oats, served with a wonderful berry compote:
It was like pairing something delicate (the mascarpone cream, smooth and light) with something bolder (the compote), the first one neutralizing a bit the sweetness of the second.
The two other desserts were more traditional:
The tiramisu was more like a cake than the creamy version I sometimes encounter in Italian restaurant. It was pretty light and, similar to all the desserts I tried at Incognito Bistro, not too sweet.
And last was the panna cotta:
The vanilla panna cotta was firm and gelatinous. Again, not too sweet and not a heavy dessert.
Desserts were served with a deliciously sweet moscato wine.
This was a fantastic tasting: great presentation and great taste. I liked both the Italian and Scottish dishes, although I do not know how many people will go for the Scottish ones: with a name like Incognito, people will probably be ready for an all Italian meal. But you never know! If you ask me, the Scottish dishes are worth trying!
Enjoy (I did)!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!
Please note that, in accordance with the FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I was contacted directly by the restaurant or a PR and that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!