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The Family @ The Smith + Pinisi

December 29, 2007

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My family is here!!
Which is good because mom, dad, and sister love to eat. But it’s bad at the same time because…

(pokes pudgy belly)

…we’re gonna eat lots! The other night we had a rather nice family dinner at The Smith. It’s been a while since all four of us have sat down for a meal, you know, for family bonding and catch up and stuff? :) Good memories.

The restaurant was near empty around 6pm but started to fill us just as we were leaving. We were led to a cozy booth towards the back of the restaurant where our waiter promptly filled our water glasses and set down bottles of both flat and sparking water. Both bottles were continually refilled throughout the night – even when they were still half full. The service here is beyond attentive. Friendly, but sometimes a bit too much – you get that feel the waiter is always watching your table out of the side of his eye, making sure water is full, plates are removed…borderline intrusive. But because they were so nice we cannot use the word ‘intrusive’, haha.

The bread? A simple, though forgettable baguette served at room temperature with a pat of salt dusted butter. The bread too, would continued to be replenished throughout the dinner – a rather nice gesture as bread refills typically stops coming after the food arrives.

I’m sorry the photos are so blurred. It was extremely dark inside the restaurant, and it didn’t even occur to me to use flash. I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen next time :)

My main reason for wanting to visit The Smith was for a taste of the ricotta gnocchi. Gnocchi is my favourite type of ‘pasta’ and it’s often first priority for me when it shows up on a menu. Lightly buttered in an indulgent bath of truffle cream, the gnocchi here came sixteen pieces to an order. The serving portion may not look like much at first glance, but given the richness of this dish, most diners may be content to eat eight pieces and call it day. But alas, each rounded cube was so perfectly tender, a wealth of ricotta with slightly crisp surfaces and I could not help but eat all sixteen. Perhaps it would be wiser to have split this dish with someone else and order a salad on the side. Or a pot of mussels and fries…all depends on your mood, eh? ;)

Mom went with the Lamb Schnitzel, a large tender cut of lamb enrobed in a thin parmesan crust and fried, not the least bit greasy and crisp to boot. Hidden beneath was a bounty of smashed potatoes, skin and all, which is a real plus in my opinion. The tangle of vinaigrette laced ‘salad’ was nice, though negligible – who needs salad when you got fried meat & potatoes?!

Dad’s Grilled Chicken Sausage came accompanied by, “street fair peppers, onions and potatoes.” Beautiful presentation though not awkwardly so, making the dish easy to eat. The thin twirl of sweet grilled sausage functioned as a ‘hat’ of sorts to the mound of peppers, onions and potatoes. We found the sausage to be sweeter than necessary, but the peppers were somewhat of a shock. SALTY. Someone must have drenched them in a bowl of salt before plating the dish! They were deemed inedible, just cause it hurt your mouth to eat all that salt in a single bite.

Sister was very satisfied with her burger and wolfed it down quick. She was quick to note that the fries tasted exactly like those at Kua Aina back home in Hawaii. Short cut, extremely crisp with just a few dashes of salt. A few bites of the burger on my part left me happy, but it hovered on the bland side, making me a bit reminiscent for the Spotted Pig’s Roquefort burger – now that was good stuff!

Mom, dad, and sister proclaimed they were satisfied after the meal…though dad took back his word after he saw the dismayed look on my face. “Oh! Perhaps, I will share a dessert with you.” Yay dad! The dessert menu is simple: Ice cream sundaes. Done eight different ways. The options all sound spectacular, whether you crave a ‘Pink Pussy Cat’ made from strawberry ice cream, fresh strawberries, red velvet cake, and whipped cream, or ‘Caramel & Nuts’ which includes peanut butter ice cream, peanut brittle, caramel and chocolate sauce. Even ‘The Rocket’ sounds tempting with espresso ice cream, ground espresso beans, espresso syrup, and chocolate sauce…though we might have a hard time falling asleep after that! But alas, my fate was quickly decided when I saw the ‘Bread Pudding Sundae’. And what a deal this is for only $5! A base of brioche bread pudding topped with caramel ice cream, caramelized bananas, candied walnuts, and a whizzle of rum sauce. The bread pudding itself was on the dry side (I like my puddings custardy), but with a triple scoop of caramel ice cream soaking in, what’s not to love? I could definitely see myself returning here late at night just for dessert.

Post dinner we decided to walk home because the weather was nice, and it always feels good to take a long walk after any meal. We went down 2nd Avenue, past many streets and turned left on 4th Street. I didn’t pick that street for any particular reason – we needed to turn eventually, so why not then. But as luck would have it, 4th St just happened to be the location of Pinisi! I guess my subconscious led me to turn that way…either that, or my body must have magnetic attractions to bakeries!

About 20 steps from the entrance to Pinisi, I suggested to my parents, “lets turn in here!” “Ooh, noo Kathy, no more desserts for today,” they responded. But it was too late, cause were already in. I introduced Andy to my parents – it’s always great to see him and his wife at work with the desserts, never fails to make you feel all warm and happy inside.

After ooogling all treats in the glass case we settled on slices of a flourless chocolate cake, carrot cake and eight square of rainbow cake. Andy was also so sweet to add in a last minute surprise of crème brulee! Four desserts for all four us turned out to be perfect because everyone found a favourite. My sister devoured the flourless chocolate cake so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to take a bite. Dad loved the crème brulee mainly because it was simple, creamy and not very sweet. I just wish they would give it more of a ‘crust’ – I never get shatter effect when you breaking through the ‘shells’ of the crème brulee from Pinisi.

I liked the rainbow cake the best, I’m sure a huge factor had to do with the fact that they were sooo fresh. These rainbow cakes are found at every Italian bakery in the city, but more often than not, they’re extremely dry with a chalky chocolate frosting. These were a world apart! Three layers of soft and moist almond cake separated by the thinnest smear of raspberry jam, a gloss of dark chocolate to finish, and there you go – the perfect late night or early morning tea treat.

We saved the carrot cake for the next morning, and shizzles, was it awesome straight out of the fridge with a cup of coffee! Frosting on the sweeter side, which is odd, cause the main reason I like Pinisi so much is because his baked goods tend to be less sweet than most bakeries. No matters, I hope it was just a fluke. Frosting wooes aside, the cake itself was a lovely creation, big carrot studded crumbs and not too dense or fluffy, no walnuts this time – sometimes he adds walnuts, sometime he does not. You just have to get lucky :) However my vote for the best carrot cake EVER still goes to the one found at M&I International last weekend. Jeebuzes. You really must try that carrot cake. It was crazy!

Hope you all have a great New Years weekend!

The Smith
55 3rd Ave
NY, NY 10003
(212) 420-9800

Pinisi Cafe & Bakery
128 East 4th St
NY, NY 10003
(212) 614-9079



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