Lomito, 300 Spring St, 212-929-9494 Price range: $45-$70 Rating: L
It’s amazing that in this city, America’s dining center stage, fusion is still foisted on us as a radical concept. Let’s not forget that the Quilted Giraffe — that bastion of cold, American Psycho-style 80s excess and culinary wizardy (and the restaurant I most regret not having visited) — got four stars from the Times... 24 years ago. So are we supposed to applaud Lomito, the “hip” Soho upstart, for its boundary-destroying emulsion of Italy and Argentina? Well, yes, if the food is excellent. But it isn’t.
Where to start on this wasted venture. The space, postage-stamp sized with soaring ceilings, creates a deafening roar from a half-full room. Its white walls, dark wood and cast-iron aim for an Urban-Rustic feel, but incorporate billowing curtains and huge windows, clearly for advertisement, not comfort. And let’s not even mention the subtitled movie projection.
The kitchen and bar follow this well-worn trail, common to many a fusion joint, of half-thought ideas and a commitment to trends (and the register) over the diner. I mistakenly forsook the wine list, with a fine smattering of tempranillos and malbecs, for a classic caipirinha, an indistinct, overpriced, sweet-water mess. Our appetizers were the meal’s highlights: a ceviche of shrimp, scallop and squid ($14) had a lovely texture and delectable crisps, but was flavored with tomato and lime alone; goat cheese on a polenta cake ($8) was likewise serviceable, pleasant and anodyne.
Lomito’s entrées shone less brightly. Linguini with mussels, calamari and shrimp in a spicy red pepper sauce ($18) arrived as a wad of thick angel hair graced with fresh seafood and a two-punch sauce of tomato and hot sauce. The pièce de résistance of this mess of a meal was the ravioli relleno (kind of redundant, that… $19), homemade ravioli stuffed with duck in a roasted-shallot-and-cream sauce with aged balsamic. First, there was no balsalmic — ok, they just opened. Same goes for the gooey, indistinct sauce. But the ravioli. Let me first say that I love duck. It’s truly my favorite protein. I even brought my cat some duck catfood from my last trip to France. And that’s what the filling of these evil ravioli tasted like — that catfood (perhaps a cut-rate, less moist version) mixed with gritty Kraft parmesan cheese.
Full, we opted against dessert and took a 20-block walk through wind and rain that was much more pleasant than this Soho newbie. But you, trusted readers, even if you’re turned away from Balthazar, won’t be fooled by Lomito’s trappings. You’ve been warned.