Kerri Henman - winesconstantly.ca

Wine

January 14, 2007

Better late than never!

Last night, we went out for dinner – something we haven’t done in a while. I’m not talking about out for a burger, or out to the pub, I’m talking about OUT for DINNER. There were four of us; we went to Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, and the only question I have is *why why why* didn’t we do this months ago?!?!?!?!?!?

We had a half hour wait for a table, but they handed us a menu so we could decide if it was worth waiting. It was. We didn’t get past the antipasti list before we knew that it was worth waiting! So, the boys went to the ATM, and the girls ordered drinks. Renee had a “French Martini” – vodka, chambord and pineapple juice. It was pretty tasty! I had a glass of prosecco – I was feeling bubbly. Beer and ginger ale on the boys side… Round two (since the first drinks went down pretty quickly), Renee had another French Martini, while I went for the Black Margarita. OH MY GAWD ….. gold tequila, lime and cassis. It was fantastic. I could see myself sucking back five or six of those babies …. but then you’d be carrying me out of the bar. It would be worth it. Gary – the bartender – is great fun, and very very good.

Gio’s was busy. Packed busy. They don’t take reservations, and it’s first come, first served. The maitre d’hotel was so nice – very friendly, patient, calm, but he was getting it all done; everything from seating to table juggling, to making sure the people waiting got their drinks. When a table was open for us, he gave us enough warning so that we could settle the bar tab before we sat. Zach – our waiter – was just a joy. Poor guy was run off his feet, but smiling, friendly, helpful; everything a really great waiter should be. He was a bit upset that just after he brought the white wine, he was getting called off to do something else, so I offered to pour the wine. I told him “well, it’s part of my day job to do this, so I’m happy to”, and he was half-relieved, half-guilty. But I wasn’t fussed, and I certainly didn’t count it against Zach at all!! The service was utterly faultless, all night.

We did a four-course dinner – antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci. For starters – Andy had spicy olives, Renee had pan-seared scallops in balsamic jus, I had carpaccio, and Paul had a mozzarella/tomato/basil salad. I tried everything except the scallops (Renee didn’t share, but I can’t blame her – they looked too good to share!). The mozzarella in Paul’s salad was creamy and just sharp enough – the basil turned out to be a nice basic pesto – minced basil with a bit of olive oil, and a dash of salt. Soooooo good! The carpaccio was perfect – tender, sweet, with a gorgeous parmesan and not too much greenery. We had a bottle of Franschoek Chenin Blanc that was so fresh and crisp, our mouths tried to tell us it had bubbles. A beautiful wine (unfortunately, only available through private order by the case) that went really well with the carpaccio, and just as nicely with the salmon that was Paul’s main course.

The primi were all well chosen…. Renee had risotto with shrimp, lobster and scallop; Andy and I both had garlic shrimp on a risotto cake, Paul had gnocchi with gorgonzola and tomato sauce. The gnocchi were the best I have ever tasted – light, fluffy little bits of pasta, not the horrible leaden stodge you so often get. The risotto was a little al dente, but very very nice; not overly fishy, not overly saucy, nicely balanced, and gooooooooood. The garlic shrimp were huge, tender, and perfectly cooked. The rice cake promised to be crispy, but it was sauced, so – it lost the crispiness, but when it tastes that good, who cares?!?!?!?

It was a heated debate as to who got the best main course. Paul’s salmon was perfectly grilled, rich, buttery and very flavourful; my involtini (shredded pork wrapped with ribeye, topped with goat cheese) were rich and spicy, Renee’s osso bucco literally melted in your mouth, but I think Andy was the winner – his steak was perfect. Tender, grilled nicely, tasty, and with the mushrooms on top – well, it was indescribable. We had a selection of sides – roasted peppers with anchovies and pine nuts (heaven), brussels sprouts with bacon, sweet potato mash (that was the favourite, I think), and roasted beets which were much better than I expected. Paul stuck with the white from the first course, but Renee and I broke into a bottle of Kiss Chasey Red (the *cutest* label!). It’s a cab/merlot/shiraz blend, and one of the nicest reds I’ve had in a while. Not too dry, medium-bodied, great fruit character, and a nice spicy tang from the shiraz. Yummy!

We got a great treat for dessert – Zach surprised us with a tasting plate. Pistachio cheesecake, chocolate espresso torte, and a creamy, fluffy, rich, to-die-for tiramisu. The chocolate torte could have caused a fight, had Paul not decided to go for the cheesecake. The cheesecake was sooooooo good, even the diehard cheesecake hater was tempted into a bite, and admitted that she liked it! What’s not to like, was all I thought – it was light, and creamy, and nutty, and the crust was sweet and crumbly. Heaven. *Heaven*, I tell you! The torte was a chocoholic’s dream – flourless, rich, but not tooth-achingly sweet. DEFINITELY what I’m having next time.

Make no mistake – there will be a next time. Several ‘next times’, in fact, because I can’t remember when we ate this well, had this much fun, got such great service, and all for a relatively reasonable final tab. The damage was $300 – that’s four people, four courses, two bottles of good wine, and Andy and I went for the priciest of primis. I reckon Paul and I could get out of there for $75, if we did three courses, and wine by the glass.

And if we did, it would probably still be as awesome an experience as last night was.

Okay, I’m hungry now …………

  1. […] Update: Kerri’s post is now up – you can find it here and as expected it’s a lot more detailed than mine. […]

    Pingback by Paul, Kerri and The Boys » Really, really nice dinner — January 14, 2007 @ 6:47 pm
  2. You are correct, we simply must go back!

    I feel a need to make two ever so tiny additions to your delightful review (oh, please. Have I ever let something go as-is?). First, and I may not have pointed it out at the time, my seared scallop antipasti included a tiny perfect slice of pork belly, adding a succulent savory to the delicate scallops, which were gorgeously rare inside. I didn’t think to offer to share at that first course, but… well… I can’t say I actually regret not giving up three little bites of mollusc heaven!

    And second, it should probably be noted for readers that the $300 bill didn’t include our before dinner drinks, but it did include a tip well-befitting the delightful and efficient service Zach provided us. We could have gotten away with a slightly heavier set of wallets. But with tummies full of spectacular food and drink, it would have felt like a great disservice, I think. And I suspect you agree!

    That said, I maintain that the absolute grand total, including the ample tips and before-dinner drinks, was a steal for the quality of food and service provided. And, of course, the charming company.

    Gio’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, really really is. One needn’t truck downtown to get a top-notch dinner out.

    That Renee 😉

    Comment by Renee — January 14, 2007 @ 11:48 pm

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