Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Food and service deserve plaudits, 
but hopefully the business model 
doesn’t stumble

The Bar at Sotto
     We went to Sotto for our anniversary because a number of friends had said how much they liked it since the opening over a year and a half ago.   We decided to make a reservation because we had a gift card to Nada, another restaurant owned by David Falk.  The card said it could be used at Falk’s three restaurants (the other being Boca).  

Sotto Dining Area
     Sotto is a basement restaurant and the space has been completely re-worked since it housed La Normandie over a decade ago.  Though shadowy, it’s easy to see other guests and the food you’re eating.  It’s also been described as loud, but we didn’t think it was a din, unlike many other restaurants downtown and in the Gateway Quarter.  We were able to take in the friendly and efficient service by all of the staff.  Our waiter was excellent and dealt quickly with a communication hiccup over part of our order.  As he pointed out, portions are meant to be shared and, fortunately, since the menu is not extensive, a party of four could cover most of the selections.  We followed his suggestions for dishes.

Chicken Liver Mousse
with Pistachio Bruchetta
     We started with the Chicken Liver Mousse with Pistachio Bruschetta (there are six choices) and it was excellent.  The mousse was buttery and glossy, but held its texture when spread on the toast.  The nuts lent both a bright color and piquant sweetness to the dish.  We had the grilled bread (yes, you pay for bread at a Falk establishment) and it was a great way to mop up the sauces of our two Primi choices.  
Semolina "Gnocchi"
These were the Semolina “Gnocchi” and the Short Rib Capellacci.  The gnocchi are semolina – not potato – based and they were like a lighter, warm polenta with a tomato sausage sauce topped with pecorino.  It was filling, but the sauce had light citrus notes.  The capellacci is a must order.  
Short Rib Capellacci
I realized later that it was what Judy and Karen and Tom had ordered on different visits and all had enjoyed it.  The pasta is parchment thin holding a pillow of the meat, which was slow-cooked to perfection.  The sauce is a delicate butter, highlighted by thyme.  

Buttermilk Panna Cotta
     We decided against a Secondi because we didn’t want to stuff ourselves, though all three choices sounded very attractive.  Instead, we ordered the Panna Cotta for dessert.  It’s buttermilk vanilla with a few macerated chopped strawberries.  It was also a delicate dish and simply presented.  It was very good, though my gold standard is Zula’s version.

Pasta Makers
     Everything was fine until we found out that Nada is being spun off into its own brand and they couldn’t take our gift card.  Thanks, David Falk, for deciding to become an empire builder and leaving customers in the dust.  After a few moments of awkwardness, the manager worked things out with exemplary skill.  It’s lucky that Falk hires such a good staff.  One thing to keep in mind:  the Commissar brothers also built an empire and it crumbled and Jean Robert has seen one partnership fall apart, but is currently building another.  Be careful with your business aspirations, mes chefs, when you’re known for your food.  Cameron Mitchell, out of Columbus, has been able to build and spin off ventures because he has always put the dining experience ahead of great, unique food, though it’s always been very good.

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