Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ask Italian - You Shall Receive a Lot More

Ask Italian - 50-60 Wigmore Street, London W1U 2RZ
0207 224 3484

After a very full day of work, and a much needed gym session after it, I was definitely in the mood for some good food.  Spending a few days in London already, I see that there's never a shortage of restaurants or quick little cafes to get a casual bite.

On my way home, I noticed a colorful, modern sign that said "Ask Italian." I thought it was a restaurant, but wasn't 100% sure, so I walked by and indeed, my suspicions were confirmed.  Glancing at the menu, I liked what I saw and decided to go in and experience it first-hand.

The bright, cheery atmosphere of Ask immediately captured my attention.  I liked how simplistic it was, with lots of open white space and really funky lighting (see above photo).  There was a nice mix of intimate seating as well as long tables with bright red benches for larger groups.

It was also nice to observe Ask's big open kitchen, where their deliciously fragrant specialties were made and delivered to enthusiastic diners.  The restaurant keeps late hours, especially for London, so you'll see a lot of young 20 and 30 somethings enjoying a late dinner (like me) or some small bites and wine.

As soon as my waitress warmly greeted me and set in front of me a pretty red and white vellum menu, I had a hunch that something good was in store. 

Bread and Olives - Offered up by my waitress, this pre-meal snack sounded absolutely perfect, and I assumed it was complimentary. Guess again (and I should've known) but this was a hidden add on item.  While it annoyed me a little after the fact, while I was eating it, I had no idea and enjoyed both the bread and the olives tremendously.  The bread was wonderfully crusty on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside, coated with good quality olive oil and sprinkled with a variety of Italian spices.  I very much enjoyed topping a small piece of bread with each a green and black olive and then placing a few drops of house balsamic vinaigrette on top. 

Terrina Mediterraneana - A highly recommended dish, I was intrigued by its description, which promised a terrine of chicken breast, king prawns in a homemade tomato sauce, also dressed with butter beans, olives, red peppers, etc.  Basically, everything under the sun. 

Because I adore stews, I was really looking forward to tasting how these eclectic flavors would blend together.  The result was brilliant (as the Brits often say) and offered up a rich complexity in flavor.  From hearty chunks of chicken to the slightly sweet tomato sauce to the salty olives, the stew sent your mouth on a multi-faceted sensory tour.  And the fact that it was also served with a side of fresh, warm rosemary bread was an added bonus, and a perfect vehicle for scooping out that extra, leftover red sauce.

Apple Rustica - Having a really tough time choosing between this, and a dessert called "Our Chocolate Nemesis," in the end, I think I chose wisely.  Presented in a black ramekin, it reminded me of spoon bread because it was soft enough to break and scoop up with your spoon.

Essentially, this was an Italian version of an apple tarte, with shortcrust pastry, interlaced with slow cooked sweet apples with almond cream and a scoop of really good quality vanilla bean ice cream.  Even though the actual tarte was clean-tasting and gorgeous, my favorite part was the ice cream, which boasted beautiful little black vanilla bean specs.  The quality and that extra detail wasn't lost on me.

Service and Cost:
As I mentioned, my waitress was personable and helpful and came by to check on me once in a while, without being intrusive.  She let me relax, as a solo diner and only came over when she sensed I had a question or a request. 

The above dinner would've amounted to less than 20 Pounds if it wasn't for that extra bread and olives.  Lesson learned, and even despite this, I would wholeheartedly come back again.

Appetizers - 2.60 - 11.25 Pounds
Salads - 8.45 - 11.95 Pounds

Pizza - 6.55 - 9.15 Pounds
Pasta - 7.15 - 10.15 Pounds
Mains - 9.45 -12.25 Pounds
Dessert - 3.95 - 5.65 Pounds

3 Mmmms

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