Saturday, April 26, 2008

Citra : Hartford

Citra has gained a small following on Chow, many excitedly proclaiming it as a gem in the rough and hoping that it gains more traction. Due to a dress code (no jeans, no sneaks) and my lack of having packed any appropriate garb, we were unable to try this out as soon as we found out about this place. However, a month and a bit of planning later, I'm pretty excited to give you the low-down on this place.

We arrived a bit late and ended up being the only diners at the time; needless to say , service was very friendly, with the chef regular coming out and talking with us. (He's also the one who apparently answers the phone as well.) The actual servers, well, you can tell they were new, but they were also friendly as well.

We kicked things off with the pumpkin bisque and Gorgonzola Stuffed Mission Figs and Coriander Salad:

Both were quite good, the pumpkin bisque in particular hitting the spot, a splendid combination of pumpkin, creme and other spices. The salad also was good. The balsamic vinegar dressing was a touch sweet for my tastes; however, eaten with the gorgonzola stuffed figs, the sweetness made more sense.

I ordered the Cedar Plank Roasted Mango and Honey Painted Atlantic Salmon, which flavors were interesting, moderately complex and had an experimental bent. Most fusion dishes I've tried end up playing it too safe with a smooth and ultimately boring flavor; however, in this dish, there is a mix of different influences that make it interesting. The pickled, metallic taste of the olives added a quirky spike to the the slightly sweet mango and tomato sauce. It was a nice touch that gave me the impression that the chef really understood the flavors of the individual ingredients, was unafraid to experiment, and had the skills to maintain a warm and friendly taste.

My gf got the braised ox-tail osso bucco style, which was nicely done as well. The meat was terrifically tender, easily falling off the bone when pressed with a fork. The flavor was surprisingly full and had a quirk to it, which with my old man amnesia, I'm having trouble recalling now... was it cinnamon? Anyways, this was recommended on chowhound and we would second that as well.

We initially hesistated to order dessert, as it was well past their specified 10 o'clock closing time, but the chef strongly encouraged us to and we ended up topping off the night with the molton chocolate cake, topped with hazelnut gelato. This was decent but not great, mainly because the cake was not really all that molton inside and actually ended up tasting more like a cakey cookie than anything.

But all in all, that was not enough to spoil a wonderful, friendly and personal dinner at a restaurant that we too would strongly recommend to others and want to gain in popularity.

I should mention that there was a minor hitch at the very end of our meal. Their computers were having trouble accepting my credit card due to internet connectivity issues. The chef ended up saying that we could come back and pay later, which was surprising to say the least.

In any case, I strongly recommend Citra. It comes as a breath of fresh air for Hartford. Yes, the location is a bit aways from the main downtown area, but I assure you that if you're itching for a restaurant that is thoughtful, friendly and something different, this is the place.

360 Franklin Avenue Hartford, CT 06114 (map)
(866) 591-445236
($Fusion, $Hartford, $Recommended)

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