For some reason Avanti ended up a long way down our list of places to try around uptown. It didn't have the word of mouth reputation that a lot of other places did, but we always meant to make it there eventually. The online review were generally very good, so on new years we decided to give it a shot. We had a 6:30 reservation, and i was somewhat surprised it wasn't more busy when we arrived. The staff was very nice and we were seated immediately. I had perused the Menu online and picked out a few things that i thought sounded interesting, although i figured it being new years they may be running a fixed Menu.
They were indeed running a fixed menu, but not in the way i would have expected. The items on the truncated menu were simply a selection of dishes from the normal menu, with the prices increased $4-$10. I think there were a few unique items on the menu, but they were priced in the $45-55 range and didn't seem worth the risk to me. This is all pretty common restaurant practice, but it was rather blatant and left a bad taste in my mouth.
We ordered Calamari and the Lobster Bisque for starters. The Calamari i thought was pretty tasty- the breading wasn't particularly light, but that's just a stylistic thing. The Lobster Bisque was a huge disappointment. It actually seemed unfinished- they seemed to add a rue to a seafood stock and neglected to add cream or any seasoning/flavor. I took several spoonfuls then pushed it aside.
For dinner, we ordered a Salmon dish with "creamy risotto and pesto" for $28, and a Veal Marsala with Mashed potatoes that i believe was also $28. The food arrived quickly and we dug in.
Unfortunately we were disappointed again. My salmon was actually cooked very artfully, but was devoid of any interesting flavor. The risotto was dry- likely something prepared in large quantity before hand and left uncovered over heat- but the flavor was good. The "pesto" portion of the dish was a ladle-ful of a thick basil pesto on top of the salmon...for some reason i was expecting pesto risotto based on the wording. At any rate, the Salmon portion was 5-6oz, a bit small for the asking price, and the pesto was very heavy on the basil and oil.
The veal marsala was the real bummer. The veal was cooked well, but the cut of meat was high in fat and gristle. The marsala was meager...sauteed portabellos with some garlic and heavy cream. We found ourselves adding copious amounts of salt and pepper to both our dishes to salvage some flavor.
We expected hearty Italian food from a place that generally has a great reputation, and were disappointed with what we found. Maybe we'll try again in a few months...maybe our expectations were too high. It was a fun place to hang out for a few hours, i just wish the food had matched the rest of the experience.