If music be the food of love, play on
By Christopher Thrall
As I entered Violino Gastronomia Italiana (10133 – 125 Street), I passed a fluid sculpture of a violin. It was twisted organically upon itself in a way that almost seemed evolutionary. Similarly, Violino crafts the experience of dining at an elegant Italian restaurant into an occasion that is vibrant, somehow richer and entirely unexpected.
Our finely-appointed table was on the main floor of the 1913 mansion. Enormous bouquets of flowers lurked in the corners. A modern colour scheme in lush fabrics accented a terrific date spot for couples of any age.
From the ambitious wine list, I chose the Farnese Sangiovese ($7.95) while my wife selected jasmine tea ($2.75). After we ordered, our server returned with a classic bread board topped with warm loaves of sourdough and whole grain.
I had ordered the antipasto misto for one ($15), craving the jumbo prawns, meaty scallops and tender salmon. The plate was rounded out with vegetables, tender mushrooms and an assortment of olives. It certainly whetted my appetite and left me eager for more.
My wife’s three frittelle di granchio ($12) did their own whetting. Each warm crab cake had a gently spiced crust, sat atop arugula pesto and was mounded with fresh diced Roma tomatoes. The pesto-heavy take on bruschetta was fresh and bracing.
Our entrées took a while to arrive, but were worth the wait. My crostine di manzo brasato ($26) was a length of slow-braised beef rib, carved into thick slabs and slathered in a dark, fragrant sauce on a bed of creamy risotto.
In front of my wife sat the West Coast halibut alla griglia ($34) in a symphony of earth tones. The fish was lightly crisped and the interior was cooked to perfection. When it was paired with the tomato, basil and shallots of the reddish sauce, the result was outstanding. Her risotto echoed the sharper tones of the tomatoes.
My risotto, on the other hand, had absorbed its flavour from the ribs and mushroom sauce. The meat tasted like it had fallen off the bone while it was slow-roasting: it almost melted in my mouth. I was still savouring the lingering flavours when our server whirled past with dessert menus.
I think the list included a cheese plate and some gelato. Maybe there was tiramisu. All I know was that the first item was an eight-tier chocolate fantasy for $11. My wife ordered some sort of peach cobbler ($9). I wasn’t sure why.
On my plate, alternating bands of dark Genoise and orange mousse formed an enormous wedge of cake, which was drizzled with chocolate syrup and placed carefully next to a ball of gelato. A strip of sweet mandarin sauce and berry coulis echoed the accompanying strawberry and kumquat. The combination of textures, sweetnesses, densities and temperatures was intoxicating. However, my wife seemed contented enough with her warm disk of puff pastry covered with luscious slices of red globe peaches from the Okanagan.
In exchange for our $140, including tip, Violino filled us in so many ways.