Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Date Night at Quattro

I was going through my Groupons the other day and saw that I had 5 expiring in November.  Because we'll be going on vacation for a good part of the month, I decided to start using them soon and planned an impromptu date night with Cari at Quattro.

Quattro is located downtown on the third floor of the Four Seasons Hotel.  The chef, Maurizio Ferrareze, came to Houston from Italy (he is from outside of Milan) and his menu is greatly inspired by his home.  I had heard many great things about Quattro and was excited to finally try it.

I really did dig the atmosphere in the place: it was elegant but at the same time it wasn't stuffy, probably what you get when you cross an expensive, modern restaurant with your typical business travelers' happy hour, which was more well attended than dinner. 

I don't know if it is normal, because they thought I might be a real food critic due to taking pictures, or because they are just so darn nice, but after bringing us bread with a tasty olive tapenade, the waiter brought us each a complimentary shot of cold butternut squash soup with pickled radicchio.  We both love butternut squash so we really were wishing we had more of it (thought I didn't see it on the menu).  The raddichio gave it a nice crunch and a bit of a sour flavor to go with the sweet soup.

Everything I read about Quattro suggested to get the Vitello e Tonno Tonnato, a dish from Chef Maurizio's region of Italy that has veal and seared tuna, tonnata sauce (which is a creamy sauce made with anchovies and capers), capers, anchovies and some greens.  This was a fantastic dish, presented very nicely and with both meats perfectly cooked.  I enjoyed the anchovy flavor of the tonnato sauce, thought it was maybe a touch too salty and could've used a bit more lemon in it.  A bit pricey at $16, but I know that tuna and veal aren't cheap.

I wanted a pasta for my main dish, and there were several that sounded great that I had to pick from.  I went with the Gnocchi di Patate con Gamberi, a gnocchi dish served with bacon and shrimp.  I am used to gnocchi coming with rich, heavy, creamy sauces, but this one came with more of a buttery sauce, which wasn't bad but certainly not what I was expecting.  The pasta itself was fantastic, very light and melts in your mouth, unlike any gnocchi I've ever had.  The shrimp and bacon were both pretty good, but I felt like the dish was lacking something.  Not bad, but not special.

My main beef was with the price.  The dish was listed at a flat $15 on the menu.  When I ordered I was told that $15 was an appetizer portion, and that a main dish portion would cost more.  The menu mentions nothing about the pasta dishes being an appetizer size, nor does it mention a main course size.  When I finally got my bill, I saw that the larger size would set me back $25.  I felt almost a little cheated, as there was ABSOLUTELY no mention of an appetizer/main course distinction on the menu, let alone pricing.  Besides, the pasta wasn't fantastic.  It was probably an $18 dish, not $25.

Cari wanted to try a pizza and ordered the margherita, a simple pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil.  I enjoyed the thin crust (I really am starting to fall for Napoli style pizza), and also liked the dallop of fresh mozzarella on each slice, but I did think it needed more basil and was a bit greasier than a typical margherita pizza.

I also thought the experience was a bit pricey.  1 glass of wine, 1 iced tea, 1 appetizer, 1 pasta and 1 pizza added up to $70.  The Groupon bringing it down to $50 made it easier to take, but I just don't know if we got $70 of value out of this meal which, outside of the Vitello, really didn't impress me.  I may make it back again because a few of the other dishes do sound good, but it may be on someone else's dime.

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