April 3, 2008

Ithaca Bites: Just a Taste

Print More

Just a Taste, nestled in the middle of Aurora Street and perpendicular to the Commons, is an Ithaca-take on tapas, the Spanish tradition of food served in small portions on small plates. This should trigger a red flag, as in the restaurant world the smaller portion is usually accompanied by a higher price. Indeed, you can rack up quite the bill at Just a Taste as you’ll continue to order dish after dish of succulent greens and perfectly sautéed meats.
First things first — the “Housemade Focaccia with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Roast Garlic” is a necessity. It comes with a roasted garlic, straight from the oven, and three substantial bricks of bread. It is essential for mopping up the rest of the sauce on the other dishes and to fill yourself up, since all the other plates will be much less generous. For two people it is more than enough to get the Tapa portion, which is $3.50.
Though delicious, the meat dishes are a bit skimpy — 5 shrimps in the Tapa portion of “Shrimp Sautéed with Garlic and Sherry” ($6) or two lamb shanks (around $8), etc. They actually call them “Grilled Lamb Rack Chops” which is anatomically confusing to me, but I guess I don’t major in butchery or baby-animal anatomy. The vegetable dishes are delectable, which probably has something to do with the fact that they are lathered in oil and cheese and nuts — my friend and I fought fork-to-fork over the “Garlic Braised Greens with Walnuts, Tomatoes, Sherry Vinegar and Point Reyes Blue Cheese” and the likeminded asparagus, oil, fancy, slightly-stinky cheese and pecans.
The desserts were very good but not spectacular. The “Warm Chocolate Soufflé and Chocolate Ganache with Whipped Cream and White Chocolate Shavings” was kind of over-advertised as it was essentially a moderately done molten chocolate cake. Both that and the berry “betty,” which was either a type of spongecake or a biscuit drenched in compote, would have improved with a little dollop of ice cream (or gelato if we’re going to be gourmet).
Just a Taste is a great place to go for a moderate splurge, but you might want to do your rumbling stomach a favor and eat a sandwich before you go. You can get around seven dishes for something like $40, so you might need to have three dishes per person to feel like you’ve had a substantial meal. Also, wear your favorite beret: Though the atmosphere and the waitstaff weren’t pretentious, the clientele definitely had their gourmand faces on.