Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Italian Kitchen

When I first heard of Italian Kitchen, I thought to myself that it was just another trendy, overpriced pasta place in the heart of downtown Vancouver.  It's true that it can be considered pricy for most people, but judging by the clientele, I don't think money was an issue for most of them.  There's no dress code, but most people were wearing their best designer dress shirts and dresses.  Ok, I admit, I felt a little out of place in my bag-o-shite outfit consisting of jeans and t-shirt, but once I got past appearances, I was able to relax.  The staff were very friendly and our server made us feel very comfortable and quite at home. 
For starters, we orderd the most amazing pizza to share.  The Roasted Squash Pizza ($15) was topped with butternut squash, double smoked bacon, pistachios and some sort of creamy garlic cheese spread. 
It was a share dish, but I had way more than my fair share.  The crust was just thin enough, perfect consistency, the toppings really complimented eachother, and it really was good enough to bring me back again.  I think the ingredients are simple enought to try at home, except maybe the spread
My caesar was a little lacking compared to some other places but overall not bad.  I really like it when the restaurant is generous with the olives when I ask for olives instead of the bean or celery.  As you can see with the single olive, I was a bit disappointed, it still tasted good overall and talking about it really just sounds like wining.
$24 - Spaghetti with Spicy Kobe Meatballs.  Getting a little close to my all-time favourite $26 Keg Size Prime Rib price point....
$29 per person (min 2) - Pesce Piatto - crab stuffed prawns wrapped in pancetta, wild salmon, seared scallops, italian bean ragout, lobster tagliatelle
$22 - Linguine with Jumbo Prawns ~ oregano, capers, roasted tomato aglio olio

The lobster tails were seasoned with garlic and butter and the meat was very tender and moist.  It's so easy to botch lobster, and a lot of steak places always overcook it, but Italian Kitchen had it perfect. 
The wild salmon was pretty good as well, cooked perfectly.  Salmon's another item that's easy to overcook, but it's a non-issue at Italian Kitchen.
I didn't get to taste the prawns, but I heard they were good.  We'll get to the scallops later.
...back to my spaghetti and meatballs....
As I said, our server was incredibly accomodating, and very friendly.  Here she is grating up some parmesan cheese for us.
I like a lot of cheese on my pasta, but to be quite honest, my spaghetti was perfect the way it was.  Our server said that Italian Kitchen was famous for their Spaghetti with Spicy Kobe Meatballs.  When our server recommended it as being really good, she wasn't kidding.  I was very, very impressed with it.  The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the incredible flavour of the truffle cream sauce was infused in the noodles.  The herb ricotta sitting on top of the noodles was a perfect topping, and I tried to get a bit in with every bite.  Awesome pasta.....simply awesome.
The spicy kick of the meatballs was a bit of a harsh contrast, and quite honestly could have been toned down a bit.  They tasted great on their own, so it could easily have been two seperate dishes and I would have been quite happy with just the pasta on it's own and had the meatballs served as an appie.  The fact that they used kobe beef didn't really make much of a difference to me.  When you take fine kobe beef and grind it up, it may as well be AAA Alberta beef and no one would really know.  I see a lot of places doing this now, using kobe beef in meatloaf, in hamburger, and now meatballs.....kind of a waste really.  It would be like taking the finest toro sashimi and canning it.  But still, I was still happy with my order overall, and I'll probably order it again the next time I go.....I'll just seperate the meatballs and consider it a seperate dish.   

Saying the prawns on the linguine were jumbo would be an understatement.  They were massive things, big enough to be compared to what some places call mini lobster tails.  They looked really good and from what my pal told me, it was a pretty filling meal. 
The scallops.  The scallops were the size of filet minon or a baseball steak, seared perfectly, a little crispy around the edges, very moist and tender on the inside.  It's easy to end up with rubbery scallops (boiled) so it's important to have high heat when you're cooking them.  It's quite obvious that Italian Kitchen knows seafood as well as it does pasta.
$18 per person (min 2) - Pasta Platter - Spaghetti and spicy kobe meatballs with truffle cream, braised veal cannelloni with wild mushroom cream pappardelle with lamb sausage, cabbage and potatoes, rigatoni, pomodoro.  Someone else's food, but it looked so good I had to take a picture of it.

I ordered another caesar and the bartender must have read my mind because this time around, I got two olives.  Three would have been nice, but whatever, I still liked it.  It had a nice healthy does of salt and pepper around the rim which is a plus for me. 

So, would I go to Italian Kitchen again?  Defintely.  Probably not that often because I'm not quite in the same tax bracket as most of it's clientele, but I'd make it a point to go there once in a while.  The food is great, the service is great, the atmosphere great.  I look forward to my next visit.

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