Friday, October 23, 2009

Pasta Pomodoro & Cocola

We went to Pasta Pomodoro at Santana Row last night. It had been a while since we ate there. We enjoyed it the last time and were in the mood for Italian. Unfortunately, like a lot of chain restaurants, the quality of the food has diminished over the past couple of years. We were totally disappointed.

My husband had a Caesar salad and frutti de mare. I had minestrone soup, mista salad, and butternut squash ravioli. I had the dressing on the side and an appetizer portion of the ravioli. We both had their bread with pesto/olive oil dip. For the most part, the food was mediocre, at best.

The bread had good texture for dipping, but not a lot of flavor on its own. The pesto dip was mostly olive oil. They mixed pesto with olive oil, apparently substituting the pesto for balsamic vinegar in the traditional bread dipping sauce. Pesto is mainly olive oil, so adding more oil just made it all taste like oil, with little basil flavor. Traditional basil pesto has parmesan and pine nuts, although I've seen it made with walnuts, too. If there was any cheese, I couldn't see or taste it. It was too smooth to have nuts in it.

Our starters were pretty ordinary. The vegetables were fresh, which was nice. But the flavors in the dressing were nothing special. I could get the same flavors in bottles from a local grocery store. The minestrone was beans, zucchini, broth, & croutons. They garnished it with the same pesto they used in the bread dip. It was good, but not great.

Our main courses were the biggest disappointment. Paul said his dish had no flavor. But I tasted it and it was just fishy. Not that good, fresh fish flavor, but that bitter fishy taste of fish that's not spoiled, but not entirely fresh, either. It probably was previously frozen, thawed fish. And it was overcooked, with that rubbery texture it gets.

My ravioli was good, at first. I liked the ravioli, sage leaves, cheese, and browned butter. But then they did something really weird--they crushed amaretti on top. I know orange veggies can be sweet, but pairing amaretti--ameretto-flavored cookies--with Parmesan cheese and sage just didn't work for me. That sugary flavor, laced with cinnamon, clashed with the rest of the dish. I probably wouldn't have ordered it, had I read the menu more carefully and noticed the amaretti in the listing of ingredients.

The last thing that was an issue for me is one of my pet peeves. I really, really hate it when they either ask me to keep my salad fork or, even worse, take it off the plate when they clear it and put it on the table for me to use for the main course. Is it really that much trouble to bring a fresh fork? The best service in recent memory for me was when we went to Julia's Kitchen at Copia, which, unfortunately, is no longer open. Not only did they bring fresh silverware for each course, they looked at what you ordered and brought the appropriate silverware.

We declined dessert, opting to head for Cocola, where we'd enjoyed their desserts and pastries. They still have the same good food. We had the Pumpkin and Milk Chocolate Mousse, a new seasonal dessert. My first bites were good. But I think overall, that dessert needs to be rethought. The pumpkin mousse was wonderful. I liked the milk chocolate mousse and the chocolate cake on the bottom. But, there was also a raspberry gel on the top and a hazelnut filling in the middle of the pumpkin mousse. These additions caused the dessert to have too many flavors competing for your attention. I would use a flavorless, and colorless gel on the top. The red didn't really make the pumpkin orange, which seemed to be its purpose, and I'd rather keep the pumpkin pie brown and skip the sweet, fruity flavor of the raspberry gel. I'd also omit the hazlenut filling. Hazelnuts are too strong a flavor to pair with pumpkin mousse.

All in all, it made me wish I'd had time to go home and cook--or that we'd chosen one of the other restaurants in Santana Row. And chosen a different dessert at Cocola. They have so many wonderful ones. This was the only one I've ever eaten that I didn't like.

On other fronts:

Friday is my weigh in day. I lost 1.5 pounds this week. It's 10% of my total body weight and .5 pounds away from the first goal I set myself. Go me!

I'm testing another recipe for one of the magazines today. I'll write another post about it when I'm done.