November 2, 2010
Scarpetta restaurant, in the Thompson Toronto, features the cuisine of New York chef Scott Conant.
Since it opened at the end of July, Scarpetta, in the Thompson Toronto hotel, has polarized critics, who either lavish the place with praise or spew vitriol.
Part of this is due, no doubt, to the fact that the restaurant is run by New York chef Scott Conant, who owns the original Scarpetta (and another eatery) in New York and has restos planned for other U.S. cities. Carpetbagging chefs don’t endear themselves to locals…
But if you choose well, Scarpetta can soar.
Leading off the evening are an assortment of fine breads, including a small square of focaccia and a hunk of stromboli, a folded-in ‘sandwich’ of pizza dough, cheese and Italian sliced deli meat.
Not to be missed are the signature creamy polenta, silky and seductive, paired with a rich stew of truffled mushrooms.
Equally impressive is Conant’s other signature dish, spaghetti with tomato sauce subtly sweetened with pureed red pepper, perfumed with basil and tossed with freshly made, perfectly al dente pasta.
The braised short-rib app, while tiny, offers meltingly tender meat set atop a risotto anchored by the ancient grain farro. A side of roasted heirloom carrots, soft ‘n’ sweet, is sabotaged by an almond puree whose nuttiness overwhelms its accompanying bed of lentils.
End notes include apple crostata, served warm and filled with tender diced fruit inside brioche crust. On the side, rich mascarpone gelato.
Much less impressive is the space, which is too dark, too barren of decoration and whose centre-floor booths seem miles apart from the side-wall banquettes.
A private room seats 18.
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