Thursday, February 12, 2009
Rinata: Al Vento's Twin Sister
The Uptown area has been buzzing about the opening of Rinata (the twin sister-restaurant to Al Vento), an Italian joint that has been breathing new life into the old Georgio's space on Hennepin Ave. Georgio's had fallen off pretty significantly towards the end, and the arrival of Rinata and chef Jonathan Hunt brings a new and credible restaurant to an area in much need of an oasis for good Italian food.
Hunt has been toiling at Al Vento for a few years now, and must have felt the itch to expand on a good thing, because the comparison between the two restaurants is staggering. Much like Al Vento, Rinata's menu is focused and diverse, with a wide range of offerings surrounding the pasta/risotto and pizza category. I've been a huge fan of Hunt's traditional pasta dishes for several years, but noted that he appears to have not carried over his heralded "Mother Sauce" from Al Vento - at least he isn't merchandising it on the menu.
The service at Rinata was friendly (again, an identical trait from Al Vento), but running a bit thin for the crowd that had compiled on a Tuesday night. Our longer then usual wait for first contact was quickly forgotten when our waiter walked us though the menu and displayed his knowledge of the preparations and recommendations. I was feeling like a simple pasta, but after everyone placed their order for more traditional dishes, I decided to test the range of the kitchen by ordering a risotto with braised boar. I'm a huge fan of boar and am quick to order it when I find it on a menu. The only other places I can recall finding it on a menu are Broders' and Heartland. Needless to say, my anticipation was high.
A few moments later our wine arrived accompanied by a nice fresh basket of Rinata's perfectly salty, crispy crusted, but soft centered focaccia. I could have eaten a whole loaf on my own with my earthy red wine, but held off to allow ample room for my risotto. Our waiter ushered our order out much faster then I had anticipated and we all quickly analyzed our dishes before digging in. I couldn't help but notice how soupy the risotto looked. It seemed a bit over sauced (Al Vento is always heavy on the sauce, too) for risotto, but I didn't let that deter me too much.
The boar was more of an extra flavorful pork and lacked the gamy finish I've come to associate it with. It was tender and delicate, indicating that it had been well prepared, but I was expecting a bit of a stiffer bite from a traditionally rich and bold protein. Similarly, the risotto which is typically known for it's creamy texture and comforting finish, was a bit grainier then I expected. The difference between undercooked and overcooked can be a matter of seconds, so it is a fine line to walk and of course everyone has a varying opinion. It still absorbed the flavors of the bold and perfectly crafted sauce, as risottos traditionally do, but lacked the laborious smooth texture I enjoy so much.
I did manage to steal a few bites Jessi's spaghetti and and the two enormous homemade meatballs that accompanied it. The tomato sugo was bold and a step above the sauce you find in most pasta places and the meatballs were second to none. The meat was rich, flavorful, moist and just all around perfect.
I'll be back to Rinata for sure, but will likely stick to something not so dependant on a unique ingredient or move to their lauded pizza. I feel like the Al Vento staff can better handle the more unique offerings, but will make sure to take advantage of the classics that Rinata seems to perfectly craft. Regardless, Hunt has created a second outlet for great Italian food in an area that really needs it, and I look forward to my return.