Carbone: Transposing to New York (8.9)

Carbone is a dashing choice for New York style Italian food. The menu is compact enough so that everything on it is what the house feels confident about presenting, but not so much that you feel that it severely limits your choice. The interior is classically designed with old school chandeliers and vintage floor tiles while seating is comfy and spacious. The enclosed restaurant lacks natural lighting and without being able to look outside of the restaurant, you could perhaps fool yourself that you’re in another city like, for instance, New York, where Italian restaurants like this one abound. Or, if you prefer, pretend that it’s an exclusive, private club of some sort. And of course you would always have Black Sheep hospitality to take care of you and your guests. Servers are a little less warm here than at some other Black Sheep places, perhaps because Carbone is more popular, but it’s still many times better here than the average restaurant in the area.

Yes, Carbone is on the pricier side, but only if you are a bit greedy and want to eat everything on the menu. Or, say, because you are having too much to drink. Otherwise, complimentary bread and cheese (refills on request) should get you going. Ordering too much would just get you too filled up in an unpleasant way, as the food here comes in relatively large portions and is incredibly rich (read: fatty and loaded with salt)—it’s New York style after all. I’d much rather order just enough every time, savor the food thoroughly and come back often.

On another note, if you’re up for New York-style Italian in a more casual setting, Mostaccioli Brothers beneath Elgin Street is a nice option with friendlier prices. There is outdoor seating there, too.

Food Rundown

Some nibbles to get you going. Parmesan cheese chunks, arancini, salami and garlic bread. I usually request for normal, unoiled bread (to save myself some tummy space for the mains) and if your server is nice that should be available.

Carpaccio Piemontese ($278) presents itself with paper thin wagyu beef slices, chopped walnut, funghi and some olive oil. It’s just slightly salty but we were still truly impressed with the meltingly delicate beef and the symphony of crunches and flavors orchestrated by the rest of the toppings. A must-order.

Octopus Pizzaiolo ($268) comprised one tentacle of a Spanish octopus with some roasted pepper and fingerling potato. The sweet sauce paired with both crunchy and tender pepper was a great backdrop. All in all a hearty appetizer to start.

Lobster ravioli ($328) with vermouth and fine herbs was excellent. The pasta dough was springy and moist and integrated seamlessly with its fillings and the savory sauce. Definitely get this if you like lobster.

Not enough meat? Not to worry. Mario’s Meatball ($278 each) has got you covered. The meatball is made with pork only. It holds tightly together and the mouthfeel is super soft. It’s definitely a bit on the fattier side and probably included minced pancetta and bread crumbs, making for an incredibly juicy and satiating bomb with countless pockets of moisture. The tomato marinara is delightful, too. But I do think half melted (or at least a fluffier) parmesan would go better with this than dry bits with no piping hot sauce to melt on.

New York Bone-in Strip ($608) is sourced from Chicago’s Meats by Linz and while this was no doubt a decent steak, it wasn’t the best for us. The strip steak was relatively straight so we had quite an even texture throughout and the meat had good marbling. There are no complaints about the grilling (which was frankly quite perfect) either. But the beef itself just didn’t quite have the nuanced, more complex flavor profile and richness of our favorite steaks. So I wouldn’t come here just for the bone-in strip as it isn’t their best show.

Chicken Parmigiana ($328) is an all-time classic, a quintessential Italian-American dish that celebrates the abundance of meat in the land of the free. Instead of drowning in marinara this is served almost in the form of a margherita pizza which I thought was interesting and, of course, appealing. The chicken was beaten and flattened to its thinnest, and with the breading it was deep-fried to a firm crunchiness. I thought the dish was made to a good standard, and I especially liked that neither the marinara nor the cheese was overboard.

Lemon Cheesecake ($215) was a little less cheesy and more of an ultra smooth, milky vanilla-y kind. It almost tastes like ice cream as it was also very cold. A little too sweet if you ask me.

Rainbow cookie to end, in true Italian style.

Both hot and iced coffee were good. The second wave kind in terms of flavor—more smokey and roasty and bold.

9/F, LKF Tower, Central
$$$, American-Italian