Monday, September 01, 2008

Go to Marliave. Go now.

I'd heard murmurings that Marliave was reopening, so when it popped up on OpenTable this weekend, we decided to take a look.

We were intrigued by descriptions that used phrases like "locally farmed produce" and "Welsh rarebits" and "prohibition-era cocktails," not necessarily in that order.

And then we looked at
Marliave's menu and saw "foie gras ravioli with duck meatballs" and "wild mushroom and oxtail risotto" and "Rabbit: black truffle-stuffed leg, prosciutto-wrapped loin" and we thought, yeah, it might be okay.

The restaurant is on Marliave's upper level; there's also a more casual
downstairs bar, which has burgers and salads and such. But as we wanted Upstairs, we made a reservation and I put on a posh frock.

What we hadn't realized, because it's not mentioned anywhere (the website's news page currently says "We're getting ready to open; check back soon"), was that Upstairs wasn't yet ready for prime-time, so Downstairs was our only choice. Which meant no truffled rabbit or duck meatballs or escargots in garlic butter or local beef carpaccio or tuna wellingon with foie gras.

But the room is a cool blend of old (pressed-tin ceiling, wrought-iron railings) and new (everything is minimalist black and white).

And then the cute blonde waitress brought the cocktail menu. And suddenly everything looked brighter.

Aparently, all the drink selections were invented by the bartender; they're named after famous people (the Amelia Earhart; the FDR--a pitcher of martinis) and historical events (the Waterloo; the Great Molasses Flood).

If our choices are any indication, Marliave may make a name for itself as a cocktail destination. My Noble Experiment involved gin, mint, lime and cucumber, garnished with a cucumber slice dipped in salt and cayenne, so it was fresh and light with a warming, peppery finish. The Boy had the White House China (rye, mint, lemon), the mint giving it a bright, clean edge. And they have a couple of non-alcoholic drinks, blending grapefruit and citrus and herbs, that I actually considered (no, really!).

And then to food. We weren't really in the mood for pizza or sliders or hot dogs (though I was tempted by both the Cuban sandwich and their version of croque madame). Instead, I had arugula with thin, tender slices of prosciutto and romano cheese, and The Boy went for the rarebit.

When I was growing up,
Welsh rarebit was basically cheese sauce poured over toast and grilled. At Marliave, however, the cheese is melted with bacon and butter in a skillet, and served with a side of soft garlic bread. It's like a rustic fondue. It's fabulous.

Then The Boy had roast chicken--tender and juicy, with a crisp, salty skin--on mushroom risotto.

My feelings about mushrooms are doubtless now a matter of public record (I don't much care for them, no sir), but this was a lovely, meaty, complex and creamy dish. The Boy felt the rice was slightly undercooked, but only someone who grew up eating rice EVERY SINGLE DAY would notice such a thing.

I went for the Sunday Evening Gravy, i.e. a slow-cooked three-meat ragu with handmade gnocchi.

The sauce was insanely good, with a nice balance of meat to tomato; it reminded me of the pibil at Tu y Yo. And the gnocchi ... oh my. You know how they're often just sticky, starchy balls? These were not those. They were light, dumplingy pillows. I ate way more than I should have.

Which meant, sadly, that I had no room for dessert, so had to pass on the panna cotta with cinnamon roll and the bread pudding with sultanas. Oh well. Next time.

So to the title of this post: Go to Marliave now, while you can. I have a feeling it's going to go big.


Anonymous Rhea said...

I was a big fan of Marliave's in its old form. I will definitely be going back.

9:50 AM  

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