Friday, March 14, 2014

Il Terrazzo

Il Terrazzo on UrbanspoonIl Terrazo is hidden in an alley that can look a bit dodgy at night. You might then expect it to be a smallish place, but it is actually rather expansive, though the area behind the bar is quite tight, including a wine "cellar" accessed by a ladder.

Depending on which Italian restaurant you go to, you might be recommended to order according to the traditional Italian five-course dinner. You'd be in trouble with portions if you try that at Il Terrazo, and plates are not really structured for sharing. Even an appy + main might leave you too full for anything but a sharing portion of dessert.

Despite not seeing any buzz outside the doors, you can still expect the restaurant to be buzzing and busy as late as 8pm. Seating is not tight, but sight-lines mean little privacy pretty much no matter where you sit. It is quite noisy with the buzz of many patrons, and dinner lighting is on the dark side of dim.

Order-taking waitstaff might be a bit busy trying to keep up, but dedicated bussers means topping up your water and offering you fresh pepper or parmesan can be expected to be prompt. All hot items seemed to come to the table quite promptly and hot enough that it was likely not sitting around waiting to be served.

At what is considered an upscale place, you can of course expect prices to match. If you're unsure of what to order, I recommend asking your server or the host(ess) which items on the menu have been around for the 20 years the restaurant has been open.

Insalata Caesar ($9) Crisp romaine lettuce with traditional caesar dressing, shaved parmigiano Reggiano and house-made croutons.
  • Caesar Salad is Caesar Salad. Blow your money on something more interesting here.
Zuppa di Pesce ($12) Fisherman’s soup - Black tiger prawns, halibut and mussels in tomato broth with peppers, artichokes, fennel seed, chili flakes, white wine and cilantro.
  • Pretty tasty!
  • Respectably composed with decently sized prawns and mussels. Not excitingly super-sized, but definitely not an embarrassing piece to be found. Every so often you end up at a restaurant where the prawns look more like shrimps. Happily, not so here.
Anitra ($27) Sliced duck breast with juniper and cinnamon glaze. Served with poached pear, toasted hazelnut and goat cheese risotto with baby greens.
  • More or less non-existent duck fat/skin. I never understood how Western or European cuisines can miss how tasty that stuff is. If you're hoping for that, better ask the waitress first.
  • Reasonably thick slices add up to a solid meal here. Quite tender.
  • "Toasted hazelnut and goat cheese risotto" turned out strangely bland to the point of almost being unflavoured. Did they forget both ingredients? Too little goat cheese? Kitchen oversight?
  • This was my friend's order so I didn't get to try much else on the plate.
Cervo ($29) Seared venison loin scaloppini, sour cherries, pickled ginger, balsamic vinegar and green peppercorns. Served with butternut squash cannelloni and creamed cabbage.
  • Not stingy with the jus here! Quite salty as a result. However, the interesting addition of sour cherries offsets this as well as any monotony that might come with eating a steak.
  • Combined with the cannelloni, I really wish the server hadn't recommended an appy as we also wanted dessert.
Panna Cotta ($8)
The items I ordered (soup, venison) were really nicely done. Combined with prompt service, I can see why Il Terrazzo is top-rated in Victoria.

When I asked for the bill, the waitress already had it ready. This felt a bit presumptuous, like a sort of get-them-out mentality, but my dining companion who had worked as a server before said it was not uncommon because non-drinkers who have already ordered dessert are typically done afterwards. If it happens to you, I'd suggest it is meant as a snappy-service customer service optimization.

Look for the risque paintings on your way to the washrooms. There are nipples!

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