Celebrating New Life
We called on the spur of the moment and found that we could get in early, our favorite dining time, anyway. Win-win! As we sat enjoying our drinks and the view of the lovely garden outside the windows, the place filled up table by table until it was humming with conversation and good spirits. Not only is Rivoli decorated for calm enjoyment, the tables are well spaced so each party can have their own private conversations.
We started with a pink champagne (or I suppose more properly a prosecco) from Italy, sipping it all through the meal. It was round and fizzy and comfortable, just right with our dinners. When she heard we were celebrating a new grandchild, the waitress brought some little shiny balloon confetti to sprinkle on the table to enhance the celebratory atmosphere.
I started with Dungeness crab bisque, a velvety smooth and richly flavorful soup redolent of the sea. It had a marbling of creme fraiche on top of the coral-colored bisque that complemented the crabby richness with just a hint of a tang. Delicious!
Because I can't slow roast anything in my current kitchen, I was tempted by the pork loin that had been hours in the oven. Sometimes (and almost always when I attempt this at home), the pork is tender enough but very dry. Not at Rivoli. The slices of pork were nothing to look at but, man, were they ever delicious with a goozle in the bottom of the plate that was like pure, clear essence of pig and lots of rosemary for added zest. The meat required only a gentle pressure from my fork to fall apart into bite-sized pieces. To give the dish a little extra texture, the chef had added little chunks of crisp pork crackling to the plate. There were roasted Italian broad beans and a wonderfully light and fluffy sort of corn pudding/soufflé to accompany. While the plate didn't look overly full, I had to take half of it home, so rich and satisfying it was.
The waitress (and by the way, the wait staff there is excellent, always pleasant and present when you need them but never obtrusive) asked if we wanted dessert and the answer was an emphatic "yes!" but we were too full, so we asked for their berry pudding to go, and ate it later that evening. It tasted as if the berries had been concentrated in some magical way so that it was a fresh as a newly-picked berry but even better. Not very sweet, it still had a tang and a little bite, but loads of ripe berry flavor.
If you have new life to celebrate, or just want a reason to feel celebratory, I can recommend Rivoli, where every visit feels like a quiet party to me.