Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cafe Nervosa

There are a few things that Cafe Nervosa, 75 Yorkville Avenue has going for it: the upstairs is a cozy haven for a romantic dinner complete with a fireplace, they have an extremely drinkable Ironstone Cab by the glass, they make a damn good hot chocolate and the service is more than competent.

There is only one thing that is not working but unfortunately it’s the food.

The Caesar salad ($8.99) arrives and I pick up my knife. The leaves are whole and I think the only knife that should slide through lettuce is the chef’s knife in the kitchen. I hate having to cut my salad. It’s done up in a egg free dressing which has a little bit of bite but without giving me garlic breath for the rest of the night. Crispy pancetta bits and fried capers finish it off but I’m wondering where in the hell is the cheese? And who burned the capers?

Their house salad ($6.99) is typical. Typically boring. It’s the standard mix of spring that I am so over. Here’s another shocker – it had a balsamic vinaigrette. If I had a toonie for every restaurant in Toronto that serves this salad, I’d be, well you know how it goes. To add insult to injury, it was so gingerly dressed, it was dry.

A prosciutto and arugula pizza ($15.99) is another predictable item but this one comes with an element of surprise – it’s assembled backwards. Instead of the arugula being on top, being able to mingle with the shards of Parmigiano, it is lying in a soggy mess on top of the sauce and underneath the meat. The prosciutto falling off with every bite as it had nothing to stick to.

The worst is yet to come.

I exercised the option of gluten free pasta and I put the white rice noodles with the would be Garganelli: Berkshire pork sausage, rapini, roasted peppers, pecorino in a light tomato sauce ($16.99).

All parts were challenged. First off the sauce is anything but light. It is heavy. It is thick. It practically gave me acid reflux. I have had spaghetti sauce from a jar that was less tangy. The sausage was strangely sweet and the chunks not rendered of their fat. The rapini was aggressively bit-ter. When cooked correctly with a generous amount of salt, rapini promptly loses any trace of the bitterness that it commands when raw. Like the burnt capers, someone had carelessly cooked the rapini. Like the missing cheese in the Caesar, the roasted peppers were M.I.A. Perhaps roasted into oblivion?

Slices of pecorino are sitting on top in a warm, sweaty pile. No one wants congealed cheese.

With corn being the more viable option, I am not jazzed about the decision to serve rice pasta as the alternative, however, the big let down is in the execution. It is overcooked to the point of breakage and I am feeling like a two year old whose mother just cut up my spaghetti because I am too little to know how to twirl it with a spoon.

Rice pasta, more than the wheat variety, must be el dente and must be rinsed thoroughly in order to remove the starch that comes out of it when boiled. If not, you end up with pasta a la wall paper paste and for under $20 you too can get yourself a bowl.

Dessert? No thanks. I may not always know my boundaries but I know when to stop spending money on a dinner that’s just not worth it.

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