Restaurant Of The Week
Of The Week
Tucked away on a quiet corner at the far northern reaches of Steinway Street, La Sirena offers exquisitely prepared seafood, meat and homemade pasta representing cooking styles from various regions of Italy and beyond. La Sirena, which means mermaid in Italian, opened two years ago, and its charming owner, Antonio Urgese, oversees every detail to ensure a pleasant dining experience.
The light and airy dining room, complete with an atrium and paintings of Italian courtyards, creates a somewhat al fresco atmosphere in which to enjoy the wonderful food. A large table in the center of the dining room boasts various platters of tantalizing appetizers like grilled vegetables, roasted peppers, a hunk of Parmigiano cheese, cannelini bean salad and more. Another unique feature of La Sirena is the open view of its kitchen through a glass wall. Chef Kenji, who hails from Japan, has had extensive training throughout Italy, where he honed his skills. He is proud of his sparkling clean and well-run kitchen and enjoys people watching him perform culinary magic.
Putting all our faith in Kenji, we decided to let him bring us whatever he wanted. Our first wonderful course was an appetizer of grilled duck breast, thinly sliced and served on crostini. The duck was so tender it melted in our mouths. Appetizers on the menu include carpaccio di manzo, paper-thin slices of raw filet mignon on a bed of greens with shaved parmigiano. Mermaid salad is named after the restaurant and tosses fresh assorted seafood with a tasty dressing. Clams or mussels bask in a heavenly broth of garlic and wine, perfect for soaking up with the crusty bread on your table ($7.95). Mozzarella in carrozza, breaded and fried slices of fresh cheese, are ideal for sharing ($5.95). The wilted spinach salad spiked with radicchio was also wonderful, as are the other salad choices.
After a pause, we dove into generous portions of risotto, slowly simmered with porcini mushrooms. All dishes are prepared to order so a little patience is required but swiftly rewarded. Several homemade pastas such as pappardelle, or ribbon pasta, are smothered with porcini mushroom, peas and a creamy cognac sauce. Another popular pasta dish is cappellini with shrimp, olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato ($15.95). Toothsome gnocchi and ravioli are soul-satisfying, whatever the sauce you choose.
Don't forget to order a bottle of wine from La Sirena’s well-stocked cellar, featuring reasonably priced vintages from all over Italy and California. Congenial manager Carlo will help in your selection, while he oversees the diligent and professional staff.
Our next course was sublimely tender baby lamb chops. My companion and I shared a rack of these bite-sized morsels of lamb, cooked to perfection. There are also prime black Angus steaks, including a Porterhouse, as well as medallions of beef in bordelaise sauce. Try the juicy pork chops with hot or sweet peppers.
As the name suggests, La Sirena offers many choices in the freshest fish and shellfish. We sampled Chilean sea bass, sautéed gently then topped with toasted almond slices, served in a puddle of tomato-red pepper coulis. Enjoy shrimp prepared any way you like or grilled salmon with caper and dill sauce. Swordfish with lemon and rosemary is another excellent choice.
Chicken La Sirena is prepared with mushrooms, artichoke hearts and roasted peppers. Veal chop Valdostana is not for the faint-hearted. This hefty veal chop is laced with fontina cheese, prosciutto and mushrooms in marsala wine sauce.
Dessert is not to be missed, whether you try their rich cakes, tiramisu or apple streudel. Special kudos for the zabaglione, with fresh fruit, and I'll have to go back to try the homemade profiterole. Espresso gave us the lift we needed to get up from the table after this satisfying and memorable meal.
Live music plays on Saturday nights, making your meal even more pleasant. La Sirena is open Mondays through Fridays for lunch and dinner, and Saturdays for dinner only, starting at 5 p.m.. The restaurant is closed on Sundays, except for private parties. Now is the time to reserve La Sirena's private party room upstairs from the restaurant but featuring the same lovely décor. The room accommodates 60 people and has provisions for music. Plan your next shower, engagement, communion or graduation party here. Best of all, there's plenty of parking in their lot or on the quiet streets outside.
We would gladly return to La Sirena and I suggest you visit for lunch or dinner, six days a week. The cuisine is upscale, but the prices are affordable.
20-01 Steinway St.