The super chef duo of Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi never play it safe. Within their vastly growing empire, Carbone certainly is at the forefront when it comes to exuberance of dining experience that Major Food Group typically offers. It’s been a while since I visited this Italian American palace, which not only pays homage to the rich tradition of red-sauce oriented cuisine of Italian immigrants in America but elevates it with the talented chefs’ own techniques, so I figured a revisit is in order. I didn’t have quite the same magic as I had on my previous visits, but the meal at Carbone can still be a very satisfying affair.
As with all my other visits, I had to start the meal with Caesar salad, which a server still makes right in front you. Still an impeccable salad dish with richness of flavor and fresh vegetables working wonders in my taste bud. Scampi all scampi was also a nice shrimp appetizer dish, but didn’t leave a ton of impression like the Caesar salad did. I tried the spicy rigatoni vodka on my first visit to Carbone, and on this visit the buttery sensation of the pasta was displayed prominently to spectacular effect. I just didn’t remember if I had enjoyed this pasta dish that much. On the other hand, linguini vongole felt a little flat even though I had no complaint about the find texture of the noodle.
For seafood entrée, we went for red snapper oreganata which was very nicely cooked and had a balance of flavor that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. Double lamb chops were also cooked perfect medium rare, although the seasoning was somewhat uneven throughout various parts of the meat. Overall, I felt the magical experience I’ve had at Carbone on my previous visits wasn’t quite there even though the meal was generally very good. Is it just a matter of not choosing the best dishes of the restaurant or is the kitchen showing some signs of slowing down? I couldn’t tell, but then the desserts happened. My dining party, which included two girls and two guys including myself, was just going after the tiramisu and chocolate cherry cake like we had just started eating. Tiramisu still had the perfect moistness that I had thoroughly enjoyed on my last visit, and chocolate cherry cake was another delightful dish that had all the decadence of a big-time dessert without being overly sweet.
Getting a reservation at Carbone can still be a Herculean affair, although to my great surprise the restaurant reservation app Reserve was able to secure tables for a party of four on almost a last minute notice. In addition to all the classic cocktails, there is a very large, Italian-centric wine selection (a bottle of Piedmont Barbaresco that I ordered was absolutely spot on in the course of our meal). Carbone still offers that memorable dining experience with retro Italian American décor (the interior of the restaurant is meticulously designed featuring numerous artworks and a floor space reminiscent of old-school Manhattan) and setting that is casual and welcoming despite the presence of finely dressed staffs and admittedly hefty price tag of the meal. Perhaps I should compile a list of my favorites from my previous visits and cherry pick those dishes on my next visit for a truly remarkable meal.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 181 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 254-3000