Saturday, July 13, 2013


Last night Hubby and I went to East Village to venture into Ukrainian food. At least that was what I had planned...

...But Streetcha Kitchen was closed (and also located in a shady basement so Hubby didn't like that), so we went next door to Porsena, Sara Jenkin's original Italian pasta joint.

It was nice setting, with the restaurant divided in half - by the bar and then the main dining area that was equally as big (or shall I say small) by a wall leading to an individual exit. I actually wanted to sit by the high chairs near the bar side, but the waiter led us to the next section where we sat at the end of a sectional.

The ambiance was darkly lit when we got it - there were a few tables occupied engaged in light conversation. The table attendant sat us down and gave us the menu.

I must say, the restaurant is decorated in a rustic, country style, with pictures of farmers looking at the diners as if we are eating their painfully grown crops. As we were reading their mission statement, we couldn't decide whether they were peasant style or bourgeois style:

Nonetheless, we basked in the perfect symmetry of her dimly lit restaurant perusing the menu, which was a bit confusing because there was a plastic sheet over the middle column that looked like it was a correction of the middle column but actually the day's special

We ordered some small plates before our pasta dishes that they were so renowned for. Our bread came nice and hot on lovely blue ceramic plates which were either just heated so they could keep the bread warm or just came out of the dishwasher (I'd like to believe the first).

The bread was rustic, but paired wonderfully with the artisan olive oil. It was my first time actually enjoying this type of bread + olive oil combination.

Hubby's rosemary and apple cider came as well. It was a really nicely mildly sweet tasting pop that tasted healthy! I gotta give it to those Brooklyners.

Formaggio - cheeses from Italy and Europe

Our first cheese tasting plate came on a small but thick cutting board. I think it came with a spicy fig jam, but I'm not quite sure because it was a little too dark to tell. It also came with two small pieces of cheese - one percoroni and another I didn't hear. The cheese servings were not as generous as the ones in France, but I can't blame them with high tariff and import fees nowadays.

It was really refreshing though - the sharp tasting cheese with the sweet n spicy jam. Guess we shouldn't have ate our bread back then because this dish came with four pieces of toasted bread.

Then our seasonal vegetables came - it was a farm fresh selection of carrots, radish, eggplant and some other crunch veggies whose name I'm not familiar with. Nonetheless, it was a nice contrast to the cheese n jam appetizer. Plus this came with a side of salt and olive oil to dip in. It was really nice to feel like a little rabbit.

The carrot was probably my favorite, because it was a tad bit sweet (naturally, of course), and when dipped in the uber salty salt it tasted almost pickled. I suppose this dish is a peasant-like dish but done up in a bourgeois manner.

Our pasta dishes came right afterwards. The waitress that was clearing our tables was very hard-working but probably didn't really know how to express herself. It was kind of awkward everytime she came to clear our tables. But the waiter who took our order was much more friendly and stopped by now and then to ask how we were doing. He didn't sound like he was from Manhattan.

 Anelloni con salsiccia e rape
My lamb pasta came with ring-shaped pasta, spicy lamb sausage, and mustard greens. It was nicely done up, very homey. The noodle was cooked al dente to give it more bite, which was nice. But I felt that it was a little too mild for my liking. You couldn't really taste the heat from the spicy lamb sausage (can't really taste the lamb because it is grounded into really fine bits), so it didn't add enough oomph to the pasta which kind of tasted dull by itself. I almost felt that this type of dish is simple enough to do at home.

Pasta al ragu
Hubby's pasta al ragu was really good though. It was actually under my recommendation, because he was going to get the rigatoni with house-made garlic pork sausage. But I advised against that because of the pork situation in Kansas.

The ragu was spicier than my spicy lamb. The sauce was so much more flavorful - a perfect balance of sweet and spicy and salty and almost umami tasting. We traded dishes towards the end because I really wanted more of his.

After our pasta dishes were cleared, a Mexican waiter came over described the desserts. He said there was a special with "pistaachio helato" which is very nice. Sounded very tempting but we really needed some exercise before dessert, so walked around outside. It was raining so we had to duck into the K-mart for a while.

The tab came out to be around $60, which was really nice considering how many dishes we ordered. This is a fine restaurant to come with a group of friends for tapas tasting, but make sure you make a reservation first because seats do fill up fast.

**** (4/5)

21 East 7th street NY, NY 10003

Kids-friendly but reservations are necessary to secure a seat

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