Saturday, February 12, 2011

Enter the Empanada: 943's Opening Weekend @ Italian Market BYOB

Enter the Empanada!

After many months of wandering past the papered storefront for 943 in the Italian Market, we finally had a chance to experience the Italian/Argentinian BYOB 943, which opened for dinner & lunch service this weekend.

The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, with plenty of neatly arranged tables spread across the open dining area - not your typical elbow-to-elbow dining setting.  The open kitchen in the back of the dining room was buzzing with activity as our server brought out some olives & nuts, followed by bread and a chimichurri dip.

Greeted with Olives, Spiced Nuts & Bread w/Chimichurri Spread
After being overwhelmed with snacky hospitality, we settled down to reviewing the menu. If you're a regular reader of our blog, you know that typically we stray towards the small-plates and starters on menus. The entrees looked very straightforward with lots of grilled meats, along with a daily fish special and a ravioli special.

Empandas: Carne and Jamon y Queso
Three different empanadas are offered on the menu - the carne included ground beef and chopped egg filling but the clear winner was the Ham & Cheese empanada, stuffed with a proscutti and a very intense cheese. The dough on these were flaky and perfectly browned. We could've ordered another round they were that addictive.

Pulpo 'Moscardino'-Octopus w/Tomato Broth, Chard, Black Olive & Red Onion

Another exciting highlight on the menu was the octopus, which was served in two styles. This first, called 'Moscardino' was served in a tomato broth alongside sweet red onions, sauteed swiss chard leaves and black olives. The octopus was perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful without any pungency or chewiness that can sometimes be found in octopus that is not fresh or cooked improperly.

Pulpo 'Don Giovanni'-Octopus w/Fennel, Fava Beans & Saffron
Pulpo 'Don Giovanni' was a mix of fava beans, sauteed fennel and saffron. The smaller favas tended to have a less meaty taste than large beans, a more subtle flavor that matched the sweetness of the fennel. The strong character of the saffron wasn't as overwhelming as I had thought at first sniff and ended up working perfectly with the octopus and favas...this was one of the best pulpo dishes we've had in a long time, due in part again to the freshness and perfect tenderness.

Housemade Chorizo y Morcilla and Mollejas
Our last dishes had more affinity with the Argentinian offerings on the menu. The Chorizo and Morcilla sausages are housemade and have the right grind and texture for a filling as rich as morcilla.  The Mollejas or grilled sweetbreads, were a grilled delight, a served in some of the largest portions I've seen for sweetbreads in quite some time.

Mollejas - Sweetbreads and Bacon Jam
The seared Mollejas tasted smoky and rich, the char flavors and the offal character of the sweetbreads were a new combination I'd never fully appreciated until now. The sweetbreads rested on a bed of Bacon Jam, which seemed like a marmalade of caramelized onions and bacon. The sweet and smoky flavor of the jam blended with the sear to make for a BBQ like taste; we kept getting hints of BBQ chicken or livers with each tasty bite.

We noticed other couples enjoying their entrees and desserts, although we didn't get a look at the dessert offerings as we were too stuffed from our meal.  The kitchen staff waved a friendly thank you as we headed out and, opening weekend jitters aside with service, we thought that the staff did a great job serving up a meal that was well worth the wait of over a year.

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone know if they are still open? I am trying to call and it says the line has been disconected