December 18, 2011 Italian, Leith, soup 2 Comments


MJ’s Verdict
For over six months I’ve been trekking up and down Easter Road and seeing the small Italian restaurant, Al Dente, tucked away before you cross the wee overpass (over the rail tracks) and looking for an opportunity to pop in for lunch. You can imagine how delighted I was by B’s choice! I hurried back towards Leith from my Turkish lesson and got there a few minutes early. I was seated in a cozy corner by a heater (which is my favourite place to be) and was poured a cool glass of sparkling water and worked through a bit of homework while I waited.

Right on time, B joined me and we were promptly given menus and proceeded to order. I went for the bruschetta mista and the Orecchiette al ragu’ d’agnello. It took a just a few minutes for the starters to arrive and when the showed up, they were fresh and piping hot. B’s soup looked good, the dainty pasta parcels in the clear broth looked very pretty and delicate.

My bruschetta was good. It had four different, half slices of toasted bread, which in itself was nothing special, but the toppings were fresh and well seasoned. There was one cheese and tomato, one Tuscan bean (like the Italian version of beans on toast), a cheese with grilled slices of courgette and aubergine, and a simple tomato. All were a nice start to the meal.

Bruschetta Mista

Orecchiette al ragu' d'agnello

By this time, the restaurant had a couple of more tables, one couple and a christmas lucheon (complete with crackers supplied by the restaurant). Our mains arrived and were very well presented. My Orecchiette al ragu’ d’agnello: wee pasta ears with a tomato and lamb ragu sauce, was really good. It reminded me of childhood and the chunks of lamb, as opposed to a mince, was a  nice change. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, it’s funny how you don’t notice the difference in perfectly cooked pasta till you are shown a good example.

For after we both ordered espressos, which showed up with a server appologizing for not having given B his dessert choice (since he ordered off the Christmas 3 course lunch menu), but it was better this way since neither one of us could eat dessert even if we had wanted to . But nonetheless, we were given the coffee for free, and it was a lovely gesture. And, the friendly banter between B and the waiter made me think that they knew each other…apparantly not, but this level of friendliness is something that I come across most in Italian places (and Union of Genius) and made me smile.

My one dissappointment was that I took so long to pop into Al Dente and try it for myself. Now that I know it is fresh and right up the road, it will only be a (short) matter of time before I return…


Blythe’s Verdict
After my jaunt to Glasgow, for festive merriment at Ingram Wynd, it was back to the heady delights of Easter Road, today. This marked the last lunch of 2011 with MJ, as she flies home to Alabama for the festive season, in a couple of days. I’ll be writing a wee article about the gift she got me, over on Total Food Geeks, in the next couple of days, as it was simply magnificent!

Gifts exchanged and much delight shared, we turned our attention to the menu in Al Dente, a little family-style Italian place, that regular Edinburgh diners will remember fondly as Tinelli’s, which served traditional Italian fare on this site, for over twenty years. The place holds around twenty five in its intimate surroundings. We were seated at a nice table in a cosy corner.

From a combo of the festive menu and their main a la carte, I chose cappelletti in broth to start, followed by pumpkin ravioli. MJ opted for mixed brushetta, followed by orechiette in a lamb ragu.

Service was relaxed and laid-back, which was a refreshing change of pace from the usual festive frenzy that overtakes restaurants focussed on expressing you through their premises at this time of year.

Starters soon arrived and mine looked really very good. Soup doesn’t tend of photograph well, but I was very happy with how this was presented. It was extremely tasty. The filled pasta was packed with meaty flavour and nicely piquant pepperiness. The broth was similarly flavourful. It really was an excellent dish.

My ravioli looked very neat and tidy. The freshly grated parmesan was lovely. The sauce was packed with nutty goodness, and the pumpkin filling for the ravioli was sweet, and had a beautiful texture. I’m not 100% convinced that the two flavours worked together in perfect harmony, but they were gutsy and powerful.

Good espresso followed to round out what had been a really satisfying lunch.

Overall, I was well impressed with Al Dente. I thought their food was really good, with a strong emphasis on keeping things simple and letting the flavours sing. I must admit that I’m getting a little tired of the ubiquitous tones of parole, parole which are the inevitable accompaniment to many Italian dining experiences, but I rather think that it’s simply an occupational hazard of dining out so much, so something I will just have to live with. My recommendation would be that you go and try Al Dente, next time you’re looking for an injection of Mediterranean flavours in your life.

MJ scores Al Dente:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 15/20

Blythe scores Al Dente:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 15/20

Today’s lunch questers were: Miriam, Blythe

We ate: cappelletti in broth, mixed bruschetta, orechiette with lamb ragu, pumpkin ravioli with walnut sauce

We drank: sparkly water, espresso

We wore: magnificent Wellington boots, freshly de-souped tie

Total bill: c.£35

Al Dente on Urbanspoon

Written by BKR