This week my parents were visiting, so I had the opportunity to try something classier. Lento, an American farm-to-table restaurant, seemed like the right choice. The three of us ate so much on this luncheon that I cannot fathom fitting it all into one column, so buckle your seatbelts, folks.
The first of our three appetizers was the carrot, ginger, coconut milk soup, a bright, fresh, flavorful way to kick off this feast. It had that complexity where some of the flavors shine through after others, making each bite a mixer in your mouth. The texture was silky without being too heavy, and the pumpkin seeds added a wonderful contrast in texture and flavor. Zingy, then earthy, then sweet, the flavors balanced out harmoniously.
The egg-battered artichokes were surprising. The artichoke itself was phenomenal, with a pure, fresh flavor. The egg batter had a French-toast-like quality, a soft and silky rather than a crispy fried coating, and a strong eggy taste that paired well with the artichoke.
As for the oysters, my dad drenched them in hot sauce, so I can’t judge this dish as it was served. Even through all the heat, it was again apparent that Lento sources great ingredients.
Among the entrees, the grilled octopus salad was the savory winner of the day. The meat was incredibly tender. It had a lovely chew at the first bite, and proceeded to melt in the mouth. The warm vinaigrette on the salad was creamy and smooth with a bright flavor, highlighting the fresh meat. The octopus was simple, just a bit of salt and charred-goodness, making room for the dressing to thrive.
The handmade lasagna with local shredded duck was also a hit. The concept wowed me, but not the flavor. The duck — easy to make too fatty or too dry — was spot-on. I loved the tomato sauce, which packed a sweet punch. However, the cheese was quite bland, and since there was more of it than meat, that scrumptious duck got a bit lost.
At least two thirds of our entrees were phenomenal because the crispy skinned John Dory was a huge hit. The fish achieved that flaky, moist perfection that all other fishes aspire to conquer. Luxe and creamy, the risotto underneath was cooked to perfection. Between that, the acidic tarragon meyer lemon beurre blanc, and the earthy, bitter notes from the sautéed spinach and crispy frizzled leeks, this plate was perfectly balanced in texture and flavor.
Our desserts lived up to these high standards as well. Lemon thyme ice cream cake and warm oatmeal molasses pie turned out to be great choices. Sweet, then tangy, the ice cream cake packed so much fresh lemon flavor in both the ice cream and the cakey crust.
The pie blew my mind. The gooey texture from the oatmeal was addictive. The top achieved heavenly caramelization in the oven. Plus, the slightly charred edges introduced a nutty, slightly bitter flavor that complimented the overall deep, bittersweet molasses flavor.
Also packing natural flavor was the chocolate mousse of the chocolate pot de crème. I don’t usually mention my intentions when I’m reviewing a restaurant. But, for the first time, our waitress inquired about the suspicious photography and note-taking. Soon after, she asked me if I like chocolate (which, yes, I very much do) and then returned with a complimentary serving of her favorite Lento dessert.
I strove to judge this chocolate pot de creme without bias, but I could not find a single fault. It was silky, luxurious, and light. The salted caramel topping the mousse was stunning, gooey, and smooth, with sharp salt complementing the sweetness. I couldn’t stop myself from finishing all three of these desserts almost entirely by myself.
The quality of ingredients used at Lento is phenomenal and it shows. For anyone out there who doesn’t believe in the benefits of farm-to-table dining, Lento will change your mind. With great ingredients, innovative ideas, and the technique to pull it off, Lento more than walks the walk.