October 23, 2015
Is this destined to be the most-copied dish of the year? I suspect so. Nobody who tries it once will ever forget it. The giant mushroom arrives at your table at Upland looking so much like a frustrated hedgehog you can’t help reaching out a tentative hand to pull off a clump. Squirt it with a bit of lemon, dip it into the lovely clump of cloumage (a fresh cheese), and you suddenly find your mouth filled with sensations: it’s one of the best fried dishes on the planet. And it’s possibly even healthy!
I love Upland. There, I’ve said it. I like the big, brassy room with its lovely light and its high ceilings. It’s hard not to be happy there. I love Justin Smilie’s food, which was wonderful at Il Buco Alimentari, but possibly even more assured here on this larger stage. Consider, for example, the heirloom tomato salad below.
The tomato themselves were swell, but the crisp little sesame crackers framed them beautifully, adding crunch to their natural tang. It was almost enough to resign you to the sad fact that it will be a while til tomatoes come our way again.
At Il Buco Alimentari Smilie mastered spaghetti cacio e pepe. He hasn’t lost his touch. This is among the world’s simplest dishes – which means it’s easy to get wrong. Smilie gets it right.
And this duck isn’t just a pretty face, with nasturtium leaves and squash blossoms dancing around the plate. It’s been cured in some manner that concentrates the flavor in a really wonderful way. A duck to reckon with.
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