Just a Taste

Though we usually cooked and ate in while Marisa and Nick were in town, we did feel the need to take them to our favorite restaurant in Ithaca: Just a Taste.

Located just off the Commons, this little tapas place has terrific food at appealing prices. The restaurant uses local ingredients wherever possible, and offers a variety of local and foreign wines. The service has been pleasant and helpful, answering questions and bringing out individual dishes as soon as they are done so that you receive them at their freshest.

We aren’t the only ones who love Just a Taste; there is usually a wait for a table. Luckily, it is surrounded by some excellent bars and restaurants for patrons to enjoy a drink or two while they wait for a call on their cell phone telling them their table is ready.

When you first walk in the door, the atmosphere isn’t necessarily impressive. Standard formica-like tables are crowded into the small dining room, even coming right next to the door, and the walls and lighting are quite plain. However, this was our first visit where the weather was nice enough to allow us to eat outdoors.

The difference is like night and day. While the tables are still a bit crowded, the enclosed courtyard is bright, cheery and airy, with a few strategically placed trees and umbrellas providing shade on the sunniest of days.

During our meal with Marisa and Nick, we shared eight dishes between the four of us:

asparagus.jpg

Asparagus sauteed in brown butter with garlic, pecans and Romano cheese.

Two thoughts kept running around in my mind as I savored this dish:

1. I should really learn to make and cook with brown butter.

2. Is there more?

It is now one of my life goals to make asparagus sauteed in brown butter. Or brussels sprouts sauteed in brown butter. Or any vegetable sauteed in brown butter. I have a feeling it makes every vegetable taste better.

brie.jpg

Warm brie with melon and crostini.

A fairly standard tapas. Buttery and creamy.

Foccacia.jpg

Housemade focaccia with extra virgin olive oil and roasted garlic.

We try to sample different dishes every time we go to Just a Taste. Except for the focaccia. We almost always get the focaccia, which comes with a full head of roasted garlic. It is just so fluffy and soft, with just the right amount of salt and crust. And with the soft garlic cloves spread on top? Perfection.

Mussels.jpg

Chilled mussels steamed in white wine with lemon, bell pepper, garlic and tarragon.

Ice-cold and tender, these were probably the freshest and tastiest mussels I’ve ever had. And this is coming from the girl who can’t decide whether or not she likes seafood.

Shark.jpg

Grilled mako shark with lime-chili slaw and corn tortilla cream sauce.

This was our “let’s try something out there” order. None of us had ever tried shark before. But it was meaty and flaky, with a taste reminiscent of tilapia. I would be willing to give shark a shot again for sure.

Steak.jpg

Grilled flank steak with raisin celery salad, stilton blue cheese and red wine vinaigrette.

I wasn’t quite in the steak mood, but I did enjoy a few bites. The thin steak was perfect paired with the blue cheese.

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Tortilla espanola: a baked egg, potato and onion dish.

Dan and I have ordered this dish before, and thought it was so good that Nick and Marisa should try it too. It is like a frittata, but with potato slices thrown into the mix. Who doesn’t like roasted potato slices?

Duck.jpg

Duck leg braised with star anise, onion, garlic, ginger and soy on fried polenta.

The duck leg may have won the silver for “best tasting dish” of the evening, after the asparagus. The star anise aroma was very strong, but the flavors all blended together and balanced each other out. I would definitely order this one again!

Overall, I have to give Just a Taste 4.8 out of 5 stars for its high-quality food, excellent service and beautiful outdoor seating, with just a minor subtraction for the indoor decor.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Comments

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      I haven’t had their braised greens! I don’t think they’re on the menu now, but I’ll look for them in the winter when it is more their season!

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      My husband made fun of me for that. The interior decor isn’t bad enough to knock off a full point (or even half a point), so tenths it was 🙂

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      Next time you’re in Ithaca, let’s go to Just a Taste and share an order of focaccia…