Sunday, March 2, 2014

Trying out a new restaurant for Terezia's birthday

In a city that's not exactly spilling over with good dining options, we try to keep an eye out for anything new that looks promising. We decided to use Terezia's birthday this week as an excuse to check out a place that opened up just last year called Savage Garden. Located in a new building directly on the almost comically neglected and uber-communist Namestie Slobody (Freedom Square), its giant windows look out on the commie-era stainless steel flower fountain, the square's centerpiece.

Savage Garden has a refreshingly international bent. The menu - which had me at a lamb shank entree - was devoid of the usual Slovak slop, containing bistro-ish French and Italian fare that would make this place feel right at home in San Francisco or Berkeley.

For the starter I ordered the roasted marrow bones with parsley pesto and bruschetta. First bite was under-seasoned, but we quickly remedied that with the salt shaker that had been kindly left on the table. The sinfully fatty bone marrow was silky, rich... and when placed on the toast that we'd rubbed with a raw garlic clove, and eaten with a dab of the parsley pesto, it was delicious. (I could've used a little spoon, though, to make it easier to dig all the marrow out).

Terezia's smoked trout with soft potato salad and quail egg was quite nice: very light, fresh, clean flavors. Not life-altering, but really tasty.

The lamb shank was fall-off-the-bone tender, and it had that wonderful, rich, lamb-y flavor, especially those bits that were closest to the bone. It came sitting atop a mountain of pumpkin puree, encircled by a moat of some kind of lamb demi-glaze. The whole dish was fairly simple, a bit rustic. However, like the bone marrow, it arrived under-seasoned, but after a few shakes of salt to make the flavors pop, we were in business. The thing is, I feel like a truly amazing chef should know how to perfectly season his dishes. Some chefs are chronic under-seasoners, but maybe this is just a kink that the kitchen will work out eventually.

I started digging in before remembering to snap a photo, so I had to kind of reassemble it after taking a couple bites - hence it doesn't look quite as nice in this photo as when it was brought to the table!

The gnocchi with wild mushroom sauce that Terezia ordered had the rich, earthy flavor one would expect from such a dish. The gnocchi were super light and airy, and the overall flavor, while not as explosively powerful as a mind-blowing porcini pasta dish that we had at Liviano last summer, was still quite nice. A few of the mushrooms were a bit mushy, though, meaning that they could have been frozen. Still a very enjoyable dish, nevertheless.

Terezia started in on her gnocchi before I snapped this photo as well, so again, it was prettier when it first arrived.

The lava cake oozed its pleasantly rich, warm and velvety chocolate goo, but Terezia and I agreed - the one she makes is a little better. And the "poached sour cherries" that accompanied it really just could've been maraschino cherries from a jar.

The wine: one glass of Slovak red that was a bit bland, and an Italian red that had a cab-like flavor and dryness. Neither were anything worth writing home about.

As Terezia remarked, the chef clearly has some international experience - this isn't food that Slovaks who haven't left the farm are typically inclined toward making. Bratislava really needs more dining options like this.

The vibe here was very casual, laid back. Service was friendly, but definitely a bit on the slow side. We waited a bit longer than usual to get menus, wine, etc. The patrons, most of whom appeared to be the sort of people in their 20s and 30s who buy Apple products, spoke a mixture of Slovak and English.

And the prices were thoroughly reasonable: the whole bill came to about 50 euros before the tip - about half of what a similar dinner at Liviano would cost. Savage Garden perhaps lacks Liviano's immaculate attention to detail and refinement, but it's a nice (and cheaper) alternative, and we'd certainly go back.

No comments:

Post a Comment