Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

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ubiquity
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Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby ubiquity » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:24 pm

I agree with Erin Hanusa's review of the food at Nostrano. I sampled most of the same dishes she reviewed, with a couple minor variations, and I found the food to be expertly prepared and refined while still fitting in with Madison's affinity for rustic, comfort, local and seasonal food. I often think some kind of goofball molecular gastronomy place will never work here, for example.

That having been said, with the exception of the hostess, who was very pleasant, welcoming and friendly, the service was terrible. The waiter who we had became visibly irritated/angry when my dining partner asked to retain her menu, so that she could read it while sampling the dishes we'd selected. She was still speaking when he turned on his heel and walked away from her in mid-sentence. In shock, I considered donning my coat and leaving at that point. He came back a moment later - to apologize? Actually, he said that the previous interaction had "thrown" him and he needed to ask me once again what my food selections were.

It really was bizarre.

Meanwhile, the other server helping tables near us seemed to be very nice, and she was engaging with the customers quite differently - I longed to have been seated in her section. I spent the meal feeling quite uncomfortable and the incident frankly ruined an otherwise splendid meal. The bad vibe was topped off as we left, when I turned and thanked the bartender who was standing at the door and who'd made our cocktails. He just stared back into my face, without returning a comment, smiling or acknowledging that I had spoken. What?

So, I really have to give this new restaurant probably 4/5 stars for its right-out-of-the-gate spot-on culinary success. But I think I'll retain a rating for service at this point, hoping against hope that this was a fluke. We choose our favorite downtown dining spots - Magnus, Sardine and so on, not only based on their excellent food but because of the pleasant, comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. Good food is a baseline in the downtown Madison scene. Service and ambiance has to be part of the equation, too, for the place to make it on my return list. I compare this to my other recent foray into the Underground Kitchen, whose dishes need some refinement but whose staff was clearly engaged in a labor of love, and eager to share the love with the customers (maybe slightly too much).

Marvell
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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby Marvell » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:43 pm

ubiquity wrote:I compare this to my other recent foray into the Underground Kitchen, whose dishes need some refinement but whose staff was clearly engaged in a labor of love, and eager to share the love with the customers (maybe slightly too much).


So...using this anatomically correct doll, can you show the police officer where the Underground Kitchen staff eagerly shared their love with you?

ubiquity
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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby ubiquity » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:58 pm

Marvell wrote: So...using this anatomically correct doll, can you show the police officer where the Underground Kitchen staff eagerly shared their love with you?


Uh...yes. Sitting down at our table to go over the..."charcuterie."

depinmad
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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby depinmad » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:31 pm

sounds like they felt your ubiquity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnDdhYul7Ck

ubiquity
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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby ubiquity » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:49 pm

depinmad wrote:sounds like they felt your ubiquity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnDdhYul7Ck


This is more like it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwTZ2xpQwpA

greeneyedlady
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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby greeneyedlady » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:54 am

Ubiquity, I'm glad you found my review to be accurate. It's too bad that you had such a negative service experience. Just to add to the discussion, I'll say that although I had the same server on both my visits, she was both professional and warm (and to be clear, I do take pains to not broadcast that I'm there to review). I do hope (for Nostrano's sake as well as their patrons') that the bad service you experienced was indeed a fluke.

Erin

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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby TAsunder » Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:14 am

I went there with a group a few days ago. Some of my companions complained about the wait staff being slightly terse in a rude way, but I didn't feel that way - they just seemed busy. Aside from the brevity of replies to questions, the service was excellent.

The food ranks among the best in Madison, despite a couple of average dishes. The risotto was good, although I agree with other reviewers I've read - it needs one more element to it to really make it pop. It wasn't "undercooked" in my case at all, it was al dente, as any good risotto should be. We also tried a scallop and oxtail dish. I liked the dish, but two of my companions complained that the scallop wasn't properly cleaned and was sandy. On the plate I was served, there was some sort of grainy topping on it that did give it a slightly sandy texture overall, but it didn't appear to be improperly cleaned to me; still, it was off-putting for them and I can see why.

Most of my party ordered the short ribs which, though good enough, were not all that interesting or unique compared to other dishes. The lamb ragu with harissa and preserved lemon was truly excellent - it reminded me of the sort of dish you might get at Osteria Papavero, but executed at a higher level. Another companion had the Brodetto and really enjoyed it. I tasted the broth and thought it was quite flavorful.

The desserts are truly the highlight of Nostrano's offerings. I guess that's what happens when you have two accomplished pastry chefs as the proprietors. Having sampled only two dishes, it may be premature to declare Nostrano's desserts as the best in Madison, but they are certainly in the running.

juice
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Re: Nostrano - fabulous food, surly staff

Postby juice » Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:06 am

The risotto was good, although I agree with other reviewers I've read - it needs one more element to it to really make it pop.


I might agree, but I really felt the menu was misleading. Call it a pheasant risotto w/ pear and I'd almost gloat over it.


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