Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Savinos Grill: A Bounty in Belmont

While visiting or attending wine tastings at The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont, I often passed by Savinos Grill, which is across the street from the wine store. But, as I was usually there earlier in the day, the restaurant was never open as it only opens for dinner. The menu looked interesting, but I just never stopped there, until recently.

I was invited to visit the restaurant, to check out their cuisine and I took the opportunity to do so. Based on my dining experience, I was extremely pleased with the food and will return again soon to try more of their dishes. The restaurant has much to offer and I give it a strong recommendation.

The restaurant has been open for three years and is owned and operated by Chef Tom Cutrone. His love of cooking has existed nearly all of his life, at least as far back as when he was eight years old. Chef Cutrone is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in restaurants in New York and Massachusetts, including L’Espalier in Boston, Tuscan Grill in Waltham and Isabella’s Restaurant in Dedham. He also traveled extensively through Italy, learning and studying regional cuisines. The restaurant is named after his late father Savino.

Savinos Grill is a medium-sized restaurant with a bit of a modern, though more minimalist look. It is quietly elegant and appropriate for either a romantic date or a family get-together. It has a partially open kitchen, and from your seat you can see some of what occurs in the kitchen. I visited on a Wednesday night and it was not that busy in the restaurant. They seated everyone though relatively close together, rather than spreading them out for additional privacy. Fortunately, the nearby tables were still far enough away that their conversation did not interfere with our dinner.

Savinos has a small bar area, which was empty on the night I was there, though it has a full range of alcohol. The bar also has a separate Tapas menu, with a variety of small plates ranging from $5-$10. You'll find items such as Fried Cheddar Polenta with herbed cream ($5), Wild Rice/Cou-cous Cake with tarragon oil ($7), Kobe Meatballs with marsala wine sauce ($7) and Baby Shrimp with saffron orzo and mint oil ($8). The Tapas appeal to me and I will need to return to check them out.

The wine list is currently being revised and my notes are based on the existing list, so there might be differences in the near future. They serve about 20 wines by the glass, priced $8-$10 per glass. Bottles range from $30-$70, with the majority at $30-$40 plus they carry a few half-bottles. The mark-up seem to be 2-3 times the usual retail. The wines are from all over the world with more Italian choices than any other region. The list is decent though relatively safe, lacking anything that is really adventurous.

I ordered a bottle of Dolcetto, but they had sold out of it, so they suggested two other wines, a Chianti Classico and a Montepulciano, allowing me to taste both to see which I preferred. I selected the 2007 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 'RS' ($40), which commonly retails for around $18-$20. This was a light and dry wine, with nice red fruit flavors and a touch of earthiness. It was very smooth, with restrained tannins, and the finish was moderate and pleasing. A good food wine and I was satisfied with my selection, feeling that it paired pretty well with the dinner.

The food menu consists of three sections, Antipasti ($6-$13), Insalata ($7-$14) and Secondi ($18-$26). There were two specials for the evening as well, one Antipasti and one Secondi. The food is reasonably priced for the quality and quantity that you receive. The menu items reflect a Mediterranean cuisine, with an emphasis on Italy, though this is clearly not a red sauce place. There is a good amount of diversity on the menu, and everyone should be able to find a dish that appeals to them, whether they are seeking beef, poultry, seafood or something vegetarian.

Prior to our food arriving, we received a basket of Italian rustic bread (not warmed), and a bowl of olive oil and a chickpea spread. It was a hearty bread and a nice choice for sopping up sauce or broth, as I would do later in the meal. When we finished the bread, they even offered to refill the basket.

From the Insalata section, the Bibb and Mâche Salad ($8) has English cucumber, radish, toasted almonds and crisped pancetta and is drizzled with balsamic glaze. All of the vegetables seemed very fresh and together made for a very nice taste. There was also a good blend of textures and flavors, as well as a pleasant presentation. All of our dishes would have a very appealing presentation.

From the Antipasti section, the Mussels ($12) were accompanied by some Napa Cabbage and chorizo and came in a delicious and flavorful broth, a bit thicker than the usual mussel broths but that is not a complaint. The mussels were tender and the broth really impressed me, bursting with savory flavor and the perfect place to dip some of the rustic bread. It was probably one of the best mussel broths I have had in some time.

Our first Secondi was the Caramelized Scallops ($25) with tomato, fennel and risotto laced with Pernod, and all topped with olive tapenade, baby squash, and parsley pistou. The scallops were cooked very well, with a bit of a crispy exterior, and tasted quite delicious. The creamy risotto had a bit of tanginess to it, and the rice was also cooked just right. The fresh veggies, tapenade and herbs all contributed to an interesting dish with a harmonious blend of flavors.

Our other Secondi was the Oven Roasted Salmon ($23), which was over saffron orzo with sautéed pea tendrils and baby carrots, and finished with mint oil. The salmon was cooked perfectly, with a crispy exterior and a moist, buttery interior that almost melted in my mouth. A very well prepared piece of fish. The orzo was silky smooth with hints of saffron. Again, the veggies seemed very fresh and all of the flavors blended very well together.

My only quibble is that this was Atlantic farm raised salmon, and I would have preferred wild salmon, especially as this is now salmon season in the northwest. I do believe wild salmon is better for you than farm-raised.

There are a number of dessert options, and your server will show you several of them so that you can make a selection. The Walnut Tart is served warm with ice cream and fruit slices. It tastes like a slice of pecan pie, but with walnuts instead. A flaky pie crust, lots of nuts, a moist interior, and the chocolate swirl all made this quite a compelling dessert, especially when warmed. Definitely a tart I would order again and strongly recommend.

For the chocolate lover, you might prefer the Chocolate Mousse-Caramel Cake, with its multiple layers of rich chocolate decadence. It was not too heavy, just rich and sweet, and came with fresh whipped cream on the side, adding to the palate's delight.

It is clear that Chef Cutrone really knows how to prepare seafood. Though it may seem simple to cook something like scallops, it actually can be quite tricky as you must get the timing exact, or you can easily under or over cook them. Getting seafood to the right tenderness is a skill. Chef Cutrone also understands how to balance flavors on a plate, so nothing overwhelms the other ingredients. Freshness of the ingredients seems very important to him, and is a definite asset on the plate. In addition, portion size is good, neither too much nor too little. You have enough to be full but not stuffed.

Service was excellent, and our waiter was attentive without being obtrusive. They seemed to be equally as attentive to the rest of the customers as well. Overall, I was impressed with the food and recommend it to everyone. I will be returning for Tapas, as well as to check out more of the dishes on the regular menu. I'll just need to visit the Spirited Gourmet later in the day, when Savinos is open.

Savinos Grill
449 Common Street
Belmont, MA
Phone: 617-484-3499

Savinos Grill on Urbanspoon


Kristi Davis - Grotto Cellars said...

What a delicious presentation. The scallops look lovely but I'll leave you to your mussels. :)

Beth said...

Nice blog with nice picture of dishes makes your blog superyummy. Can Fried Cheddar Polenta with herbed cream be paired with Viogner ? Colonialgifts.co.uk