Saturday, August 28, 2010

Il Silene, Kamakura

Kamakura has a surprising concentration of Italian restaurants. The best looking ones are surprisingly full, even when the rest of town is fairly empty during the day and leaning toward ghostly at night. Il Silene is up near the big shrine, but seriously hidden in a basement. You could see their sign on the street, walk downstairs, conclude that you were mistaken, and leave without making it to the back of the building, which is where they are.

They've only been open since the beginning of August, which is an interesting time to open. Maybe it's the busiest season in Kamakura. The recent opening accounts for the cleanliness of the interior, which is a bit bright, and certainly casual. The metal chairs look uncomfortable but were pretty good, so don't let that put you off.

They'll start you with some bread that they make themselves, and it's decent. The tomato-rubbed version is probably the best, but there's the other crisp one with lots of salt that's quite addictive and likely o make you ask for more. It's a good thing they give you more bread though, because they were down one person on staff and horribly slow as a result.

Kamakura vegetables are a big thing; I wish this salad had had some non-lettucey Kamakura vegetables in it, but all the leaves were good, and the bagna cauda-styled dressing was really good.

As was this warm starter, the best thing on the night - cubes of fried polenta with spinach, topped with lardo. I like how if you put an 'o' after it, it's easier to forget that it's cured...lard. This was really good.

Fresh ravioli with truffles?! Filled with spinach and ricotta, these needed salt. And oil. Or butter. Basically some kind of flavor other than the hint of nutmeg in the filling. (Did you know nutmeg was common in Italy? I certainly didn't, until I started reading Elizabeth David's Italian Food. Great book, interestingly just a little bit displaced time-wise - like nutmeg has possibly faded for savory food, and she also says 'tunny-fish' all the time for tuna.)

Speaking parenthetically of tuna, the irridescent slices on top of this pasta are cured tuna. It was pretty strong. The fried eggplant was much better, but the grated bottarga / karasumi didn't add anything to the dish. Pretty weak overall, especially with the dried spaghetti. We're getting spoiled in Tokyo, expecting fresh pasta all the time.

Good sliced steak. Mmmm. Just the right portion to finish off the meal and give you energy for the walk back to the station, and the rather long train ride home.

Promising, but really not satisfying. Plus there's a cover charge since they're Italian.

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