The perfect way to help you prepare yourself for a Carna by Dario Cecchini dining experience is to say be ready for pure decadence. And Chef Thomas Griese has ratcheted up the decadence another notch at this next level steakhouse during lobster season, sourcing the freshest whole lobsters that are not only impressive to look at as the entire lobster makes its way to your table, but also in its preparation. You have to be lucky to snag one, because these beauties sell like hot cakes once they come through Carna’s door.
But with lobster season through March 31, 2020, if you happen to “miss the boat” on your visit, you won’t miss out, because there are many days to get in and get yours as well as explore Carna’s menu. Case-in-point, on my last visit to the restaurant, the chef had added a 28-day aged veal chop from Peter’s Farm, Netherlands, to the menu.
I decided to leave my meal totally in the hands of the chef, allowing him to take me out of my comfort zone. It turned out to be a journey and a culinary experience.
I started with an amuse bouche of marinated blue crab cake, potato fonduta with scallops, Black Label prosciutto and Black River cannoli. The potato fonduta was silky and luscious, and balanced by sweet diver scallops. The crab cake was chock-full of sweet crabmeat, while the prosciutto cannoli provided an amazing addictive and exciting burst of flavors on the palate – salty, sweet and fragrant.
The three-item amuse bouche set the tone for the remainder of a meal.
Simply put, Wagyu beef is the pinnacle of the steak world, so it goes without saying that the Wagyu beef carpaccio with Castelvetrano olives, black truffle, gribiche, capers and hydro cress was a stellar experience. Paper-thin sliced Wagyu beef was topped with buttery olives, briny gribiche and capers and sharply flavored greens for a perfect melding of flavors.
And at Carna, they serve Wagyu A5 so you know you’re getting the best to be had.
The grilled Spanish octopus with fingerling potatoes and salsa verde is one of those offerings that should not be missed. To be totally honest, it’s one I’d overlooked time and again when I dined there, but Chef Griese did not allow me to pass on it this time.
It was one of those “oh my goodness, I’ve been missing out on this all along” experiences. It was firm, yet tender; but boosted in flavor with a tangy salsa verde, with the entire combination rounded out by the creamy fingerling potatoes, which added up to a delicious dish.
And Cecchini’s Sugo pappardelle – dry-age beef, wild mushrooms and bone marrow crumble – is one of those unctuous dishes from the gods that will have you hoping it’s a never-ending dish. The chef spoke to a secret preparation that Cecchini uses in coming up with this dish. I don’t need to know the secret, as long as it stays on the menu and I can have it anytime I’m there; I’m good with that! This is one of those don’t-miss dishes. (And if you’re counting calories, simply put in extra gym time, or skip another treat, so that you can enjoy this indulgence.)
Carna’s veal, which had just been added to the menu, was tender with a fine structure and delicate taste. And a 30-day aged steak sprinkled with Cecchini’s legendary seasoning proved to be perfect, accompanied by sides of truffle mac n’ cheese, whipped potatoes, creamed spinach and a new fire-roasted broccolini side to the menu.
A deconstructed Key lime cremeux (French for creamy) – Carna’s take on the key lime pie – will have you digging in for seconds and thirds, and before you know it, the entire dessert is gone, even if you’re not a fan of Key lime pie itself – that’s how good it is. The New York-style cheesecake with red raspberries, white chocolate fudge and Oreo crumb is a must have, with a creamy, luscious cake foiled with tangy raspberries and a luscious fudge and Oreo crumb.
While I had given myself over to Chef Griese for the meal, there was one dessert that I could not leave without having – and it’s the Carna signature affogato with Valrhona sphere, vanilla ice cream, toasted vanilla, marshmallow and Lavazza espresso. Hot espresso meets cold ice cream meets gooey marshmallow and chocolate for the perfect ending to any meal – at least for me it is. And at Carna, it’s my sweet go-to ending of choice now.
There’s so much to explore on Carna’s menu that it can become difficult, because you could probably gravitate to what you’ve had in the past, and love; in addition to Chef Thomas’ daily specials, sometimes it could behoove you to leave yourself in the hands of the chef.
If you ever have the opportunity to sit back and let the chef plan your meal from start to finish, do it, because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that Chef Thomas isn’t resting on his laurels.
Carna’s menu is constantly evolving, and with the fall upon us, I expect Chef Thomas to be making some changes. I’m excited!