Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Incognito Bistro – A Melding of Scotland and Italy on a Plate

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a press dinner at Incognito Bistro – a Sottish-Italian fusion restaurant in the Flatiron District, which was new to me. Aside from loving Italian food, I’ve never yet imagined a melding of these two cultures, especially on a plate. I was in for a treat, as the evening took my palate on a most unusual and delicious, journey.

Located on the busy 18th street, between 5th and 6th Avenue, I must’ve passed Incognito before without noticing. Not that their signage is discreet, it’s just that the street is populated with so much great shopping that it’s good to know its exact location.

Once I walked in, I was welcomed by a sleek, airy space which was comfortably filled with patrons on a Tuesday night. There’s a bar up front, which is nice to occupy while waiting to be seated or for enjoying an impromptu glass of wine. Overall, the dining room feels sleek and refined, with a few bright pops of color which come in the form of painted rounded columns that slightly break up the room. It reminded me of something I’d find in a Miro painting, which gave it a hint of irreverence and a touch of whimsy. We later found out the columns remained from when the space used to be a parking garage, and I appreciated that Adriana and Paolo, Incognito’s owners chose to incorporate it into the décor.

I liked that our dinner consisted of several tasting options with manageable portions that allowed us to sample a wide variety of the menu. We started with a few apps, then a pasta course, followed by a sampling of entrees, and then finally dessert. Everything was prepared with a lot of thought and precision, and I’ll touch on my personal highlights here:

Apps – The first dish of the night was also one of the most memorable, which was the Roast Beef Pizza. I admit that it sounded odd, even a little unappetizing, but once it arrived and I had the chance to try it, I fell in love. As you might’ve guessed, this was no ordinary red sauce pizza pie, and instead was topped with a spicy horseradish sauce as its base. While this topping had a kick, it wasn’t overly spicy and provided a nice pop alongside the savory roast beef and the tangy manchego cheese topping. I’d highly recommend sharing a plate of this with your dining buddies.

Another app that also stood out to me was the avocado gazpacho, which was topped with a sprinkling of red and green peppers, crumbly feta cheese and fresh pepper. It was a great summer dish that helped tide you over for the next course without weighing you down. The texture was smooth and velvety, but also wasn’t too heavy handed in terms of cream content.

Again, not your traditional pasta offering when you think of an Italian restaurant, I enjoyed a helping of risotto with a thick lamb ragu. The latter was the best part, as it boasted rich, deep flavors that were all about comfort. While the portion was just a sampling size, I can see ordering this dish during chilly fall and winter months alongside a full bodied red wine.

Graced with an elegant plate of Ayrshire Pork, this was one impressive dish that boasted a lot of interesting elements. It symbolized to me a slice of Scotland, with a piece of stornoway black pudding (popular in the Western part of Scotland), sweet caramelized onions and another hint of sweetness and sourness from the julienned apples. The composition of the dish was genius, combining a bevy of textures, flavors and colors on one plate. I loved the slightly creamy sauce that tied it all together, adding one more hint of indulgence.

Dessert didn’t disappoint, as we were offered a beautifully composed plate with a dark chocolate torte, and cranachan (another quintessential Scottish dessert) made up of mascarpone cream, meringue, toasted oats and a wild berry compote. The mascarpone was that Italian influence creeping in, which tasted smooth and decadent. I loved the balance and the slight earthiness in this dish which came from the rolled oats and the tangy berries.

Service and Cost:
We experienced really great service and hospitality from the Incognito staff. Paolo and Adriana, Incognito’s co-owners were incredibly charming and explained to us not only the story behind each dish, but also how this Scottish Italian restaurant came about. Apparently there are close to 60,000 Italians living in Scotland – who knew?!

The waitstaff was helpful and professional and some of the folks helping us definitely had a nice dose of personality – making the evening a lot of fun.

Costs are moderate and range widely, depending on what you get:

Starters - $8-$18
Pizza - $16-$24
Pasta - $12-$24
Meat & Fish - $22-$38

3 Mmmms

Incognito Bistro – 30 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
1 Train to 18th Street of V/F Train to 14th Street

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