Readers of this space know that I will now review restaurants for Syracuse.com and The Post-Standard, meaning that I very well may have written my last restaurant review back in September 2015. I do travel a little for work, so you may see a review pop up here and there, but the largesse of my work will reside there with links to that on this site.
There were no Bobby Flay or Tom Colicchio this year, but there was José Andrés, Ed Moro, and some other fun. There were a couple of stinkers, sure, but Al Dente ate well in 2015. All restaurants are located in Syracuse, unless otherwise noted:
The Wife was concerned that the restaurant was only half full when we arrived. She wondered if it was really the weather or if it was a reflection of the regard in which people hold the food and experience of eating at Small Plates Detroit.
America Eats Tavern is Andrés’ love letter to his adopted home, celebrating the nation that has given him so much, and to which he has given his all. It’s not the prototypical José Andrés restaurant, but then again, José Andrés is not the prototypical American success story.
Marrow typically tastes like beef and salt, but the mixture of onion jam added a sweetness to the salty, savory marrow. The Wife, put off by the gelatinous texture, was happy that I was happy but I could tell was not interested in watching me eat.
Our server explained that the restaurant was serving Wellpoint oysters, which she described as mild. I ordered a dozen and used my phone to Google “Wellpoint Oysters,” to which I found nothing. There’s no such thing. Wellfleet oysters come from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Bluepoint oysters are dug in Long Island and Connecticut. When the server made it back, I asked her again what type of oysters were available. This time she offered to check. I’m still waiting for a response.
The Signature Italian pork sandwich is one of the house specialties and clearly inspired by the other famous Philadelphia meat sandwich. Pork loin is shredded, and served on a roll au jus with hot pepper relish, onions, garlic, escarole (instead of rappi) and provolone. I’m not ready to crown this the best sandwich in Syracuse, but it is probably in the top ten.
Alto Cinco is one of “those” restaurants. You know what I’m talking about. They make everything fresh from salsas to guacamoles to other sauces, the fillings for their tacos and burritos, and the cornbread that you wish you could buy by the pan. Owner Johanna Yorke has extended the brand to her downtown cantina Otro Cinco, adding some Spanish flavors to the mix, but the original, Latin-American centric Alto Cinco has long been one of Syracuse’s best known restaurants for the use of local ingredients, slow cooking, and big flavor.
It’s the waiter’s banter with his customers, his attention to detail when describing the specials, how he goes out of his way to ensure that things are indeed gluten free for your daughter with Celiac disease, or his operatic rendition of Happy Birthday for the table next to you. It’s the floor managers that constantly circulate, keeping attentive eyes on how much is left in your glass and checking to see if another order has been placed before asking. It extends to the bread server, who brings you extra for your mussels, and how pâté and butter are served with hunks of baguette.
Moro brought his signature protein from Auburn to Skaneateles. At both restaurants, these rich, boneless chunks of meat are slowly braised in red wine and beef stock. In Skaneateles, the kitchen changes directions by topping it with a tomato jam that Moro should consider bottling and selling as a condiment, over-the-counter pharmaceutical and/or cure for the common cold.