From Iceland — At Least The Grappa Was Good

At Least The Grappa Was Good

Published June 24, 2011

At Least The Grappa Was Good

Tis the season I am usually consuming a heavy dose of fine art washed down by the afternoon spritz and evening prosecco of a Venetian piazza. Alas, I must pass on the Venice Biennale this year and make do with the extents of my backyard. For art, I view a nice exhibition at gallery i8 by former Biennale heavyweight Kristján Guðmundsson. A worthy exhibition deserves to be followed up by proper Italian dining, and uno was just around the corner.
Uno opened its doors early this year boasting to be capobranco, and based on the menu, it seemed like the cuisine might be as close as I will get to Italy this summer.  
Something must be abuzz at Uno. It was only around six on a Friday evening when my guest and I were turned away from a near empty restaurant. The hostess scanned the dining room before remarking that a table would not be open for at least three hours. Two thirds of the restaurant was empty, and Uno cannot accommodate a two top until after nine? The books might be full, but when your dining room is barren at six, there is always room for a couple walking in off of the street. This is the bread and butter of the restaurant business. Learn to turn your tables or juggle your books. This is not exclusivity, it is incompetence. We hesitantly make reservations for the same time the following evening.
The scenario is similar. A near empty restaurant, yet we are packed in like sardines with the other guests. We are rushed to order food before we are offered the chance to order aperitifs, and once we do, the chronic interruptions from the server’s predatory circles prevented any conversations from fruition. Embarrassed or impatient, perhaps she took the hint that we preferred to dine in peace. She relinquished control of our table to a less tenacious young lad. Our service improved, but our experience was heading toward oblivion. My first course of deep-fried lobster was cold, my beef carpaccio was without taste, and my bruschetta never arrived. I had yet to receive a hot dish. From the sound of the cooks on the front line, the wheels were about to come off a less than full dining room. Bells were ringing, voices were yelling, and food was being auctioned off. Oh, here comes my slow cooked Lamb Osso Bucco. Miserably cold. I was counting on this dish to be the saving grace of the evening. It is rather hard to botch a lamb that cooks all day, unless you are cooking it at room temperature or forgot to turn on the oven.
Why did I set my expectations so high? Was it the hype in the menu about scouring Italy for the perfect risotto? Was it the authentic sounding dishes? Of course, if one is going to spend 22.000 ISK on a casual dinner for two, the bar is slightly raised. This really felt like it was going to be Iceland’s premier Italian restaurant, yet it fails like Olive Garden. At least the grappa was good.
I would like to return when Uno is properly staffed, and with someone capable managing the front of the house, as the kitchen seems to have good intentions. But in the mean time there is a lot of polishing to do.

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