Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lavagna

Each and every Lavagna pasta dish is prepared with house made pasta which is a true highlight of Lavagna's philosophy. Carrying this philosophy forward, each table will feature the exclusive Lavagna Virgin Olive Oil, fresh made focaccia bread and handwritten chalkboard menus. Owner Stephen Cheung designed these concepts based on the principle he believes of what food should be: "simple, fresh and changed often-just like a chalkboard." A familiar and affordable concept of delicious, traditional, regional Italian food, a lighthearted and brilliantly inexpensive wine list, and a distinctive list of craft cocktails all designed with the ingredients of love await you at Lavagna on Barracks Row.  Closest Metro is Eastern Market.

March 2012: This new Italian restaurant has been open for over a year now and Keith and I have tried to stop by for brunch or lunch, but never really made it in.  So this time, we decided to go for a mid-week dinner and use a recent Living Social coupon I acquired.  I heard mixed reviews about this place, but kept an open mind as I perused the menu.  A few appetizers and entrées caught my eye, but our server forgot to mention to us about mix and matching pastas (order half portions of several pasta to sample) or the pre-set dinner option (an appetizer, pasta, dessert, and glass of wine for $35) until after we made our choices.  Had he mentioned it right away, I might have gone a different route.  Regardless, the server did peak my interest in the wine flight - a sample of three white or red for $10.  I chose the white and although I am no connoisseur, they all looked and tasted exactly the same to me. I usually can tell the difference between different varieties, so I was a little disappointed.


Our appetizers soon arrived and we were taken aback.  First, we thought the artichoke would be just that - a full artichoke. Rather, it was a few pieces of lackluster artichoke hearts on a bed of lightly dressed arugula.  A large, hard, and stale piece of crostini was buried underneath that was spread with goat cheese, yet added no additional flavor.  Next, the prosciutto arancini was a single ball in a sorry, cold, and tin can flavored sauce akin to Spaghetti-O's.  At least two arancini should have been provided and although I could see pieces of the prosciutto inside, I could not really taste it.  So far, we were not impressed.  Our main dishes soon arrived and I was happy to see the portion size.  My radiatorre pasta, however, was way overcooked and too soft.  The cauliflower and pine nuts had solid flavor and kept the dish light.  There was a nice extra kick of red pepper that I also did not mind.  Keith's risotto, though ugly to look at, had great seafood flavor. The squid ink and shrimp provided just the right amount of salt and the rice was nice and creamy.  All in all, Lavagna had hits and misses.  I appreciate the attempt to bring fresh pasta and Italian fare to the south end of Barracks Row, but the food is still overshadowed by other better places on the block.

September 2012:  We returned to Lavagna after checking out the summer concert series at Yard's Park for a late night snack.  We sat outside on the patio and I ordered the red wine flight this time, and same as with the white flight I tried earlier - these all tasted the same! In full disclosure, I had enjoyed a couple glasses of sangria and rosé earlier, so my palate may have been wiped out.  Keith ordered a beer and we decided to share the charcuterie for 2.  A plate of house cured meats (mostly an odd pâté of some sort), pickled vegetables, olives, a lot of mustard, a smidgen of ricotta with some toasted crostini arrived.  The whole ambience, from being outside to the wine to the charcuterie, transported me back to Europe.  I look forward to returning and trying something more substantial off the menu.

October 2012: Keith and I returned to support the "Take A Bite" event for Pink Jams! As I walked in I overheard a server explaining to another patron about how 25% of the night's proceeds would go towards the charity, and I thought that was fantastic marketing.  Since we've eaten at Lavagna before, I'll get right to what we decided to order this time...to start I chose a simple Spinach Walnut Salad that came with diced tomatoes, pickled carrots, and a zingy orange vinaigrette.  Keith wanted to try something "more traditionally Italian" and started with a half-portion of the Spaghetti Meatball.  A large tennis ball sized meatball arrived on a mound of spaghetti.  It looked amazing, but unfortunately when Keith cut into it, the meatball was ice cold in the center.  After a quick re-fire from the kitchen, Keith happily devoured the dish and stated it was good enough to order again.  For my main, I ordered the Risotto this time made with crimini and Maitake mushrooms, mixed with Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses.  The dish was full of the mushrooms, which made me happy but was a bit bland in flavor.  Even the clearly visible cheese did not provide enough salt in the dish.  Nevertheless, I finished my entire carb-loaded plate.  Keith ordered Papa Weaver's Pork Chop that came with polenta, onions, spinach, and a sweet honey sage sauce.  The sauce slightly overpowered the pork chop, but the spinach was delicious.  We were stuffed, yet finished off the meal by sharing a slice of the Cheesecake.  It was divine with a hint of Fall spices and very light - definitely homemade, both the crust and the filling.  Overall, I was very pleased with our meal and the service throughout the night.  As we left, the owner thanked us for coming in to support Pink Jams! - a great reminder to guests about the charitable cause. I hope they raised a lot of money for Pink Jams! and breast cancer awareness.  

Total Rating: 3.25
Food: 3, Price: 3, Service: 3.5, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:

Artichoke
artichoke hearts on a bed of arugula
with a goat cheese crostini

Prosciutto Arancini
deep fried rice ball with prosciutto

Radiatorre
with cauliflower and pine nuts


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Charcuterie for 2
house cured meats, olives, vegetables, ricotta

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Spinach Walnut Salad
with tomatoes, carrots, and orange vinaigrette

Risotto
with crimini mushrooms, Maitake mushrooms, Parmesan, Pecorino

Cheesecake

Plus Keith ate:

Squid Ink Risotto
with shrimp

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Spaghetti Meatball (Half-Portion)
single house meatball with marinara sauce

Papa Weaver's Pork Chop
with polenta, onions, spinach, and a honey sage sauce

Lavagna on Urbanspoon

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