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Allegretti

allegretti.jpg

46 W. 22nd St.,
between Fifth and Sixth Aves. (212) 206-0555
5 p.m.-11 p.m.

CUISINE Southern French
VIBE Think yacht chic
OCCASION First date, group dinner, business lunch
DON’T-MISS DISH Heirloom tomato salad, seared dorade, chocolate fondant
PRICE Appetizers, $15; entrees, $26; dessert, $10
RESERVATIONS: Recommended
Capsule: You’ll want to become a regular at Allegretti.

 


Allegretti
is growing on me. And that very fact demonstrates one of the few
drawbacks of being a restaurant critic. I don’t get to be a regular
anywhere.

What could be better than a restaurant where you don’t
even have to order, where the server already knows how you like your
steak and martini? (Ice-cold vodka in a martini glass, please. Olives
on the side.) There’s a lot of pleasure in trying a new dish every
night, but there’s something to be said for eating the same thing over
and over again. In a place you can count on.

Allegretti
might just be that kind of place. Not everything on the menu could be
my regular dish. But the Niçois ravioli could. You’d think ravioli
stuffed with braised oxtail and swiss chard would be too wintry for a
summer’s night, but it isn’t. If this were my regular dish, I’d be
looking forward to the moment when I found myself thinking about the
beef jus spooned over the ravioli. But it isn’t just the jus that makes
this dish. It’s the toasted pignoli. The thick shavings of parmesan.
And best of all, the threads of candied orange peel and glazed swiss
chard stems. This Niçois ravioli is upscale, yet accessible. That’s
Allegretti in a nutshell.

What could be more everyday than roasted chicken? On the menu, it
appears as “Organic Chicken Breast” – a boring name if ever there was
one. But it’s à l’étouffée – smothered with lemon and seasoned with
white wine, chicken jus, tomato, parsley and tons of capers. This is a
dish of many small gifts – roasted tomato, potatoes fondant and an
eggplant-wrapped mozzarella that’s just as good as the chicken itself.

The restaurant is named after its chef, Alain Allegretti, who trained under Alain Ducasse and Jacques Maximin.
Allegretti is Niçois himself. Translation: He’s from Nice and has a
flair for fish. And there’s plenty on the menu – ceviche, dorade,
calamari stuffed with shellfish and pan-seared sea scallops. Rouget,
aka mullet, is not an easy fish to get right. Even some of the best
chefs botch it. Either the skin’s crispy and the flesh is dry or the
flesh is moist and the skin’s rubbery. But somehow, Allegretti nudges
all the nuances from rouget.

Now,
here’s what’s not so good. The octopus à la plancha – ordinary. The
roasted halibut on a risotto paella cake – overcooked. The duck magret
was fine, but not as good as the warm salad of summer beans, peaches,
and radishes it came with.

One reason to return to Allegretti
is the wine list, which is excellent. Don’t just order a bottle. Order
by the glass. Think of this as dinner with a wine tasting. My
suggestions: the Muri-Gries Müller Thurgau 2007, the Paul Vendran
Viognier 2007 and the Domaine Michel Gros Pinot Noir 2005. These wines, too, are upscale and accessible – sophisticated but reasonably priced.

Allegretti
is growing on me because it’s still growing into itself. So is the
neighborhood, which you might call Flatiron West, a district largely
devoid of chef-driven restaurants. And there’s more to come from
Allegretti. I find myself thinking about the wood-burning oven, which
hasn’t been fired up yet. But when it is, I’ll be back.

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