PHOTO OF LENTO’S POUTINE COURTESY OF OUR FRIEND, LINH PHILLIPS OF SIRROCHASAYS
By Ryan Arnold
[ Publisher Note: As February began, The Cut was in the mood for a little romance. In the interest of sharing some of our favorite locations for hot dates, my first pick was Rochester’s Lento.]
“You never take me anywhere,” Jenny, my wife, playfully jokes with me as I kick back after work for a few minutes, taking in the comforts of my couch, scrolling through Instagram.
To her credit, she’s an awesome mom to our daughter, and while she’s not entirely correct, I do enjoy the benefit of visiting few more of Rochester’s locally owned restaurants than she does under the guise of “work”.
So when she suggested that Grandma babysit for a few hours on New Year’s Eve, I knew we had to visit one of Rochester’s go-to restaurants, the warm, inviting confines of Lento in the Village Gate. In a world where the term ‘farm-to-table’ is overused, I was excited to try Lento, reputed for its local ethos, but also a haven of big city talent and charm, quarterbacked by 2015 James Beard Awards nominee, chef and owner Art Rogers.
We were impressed with the restaurant’s atmosphere and attentive service. Our server, Beau, was everything you’d expect from waitstaff at a fine dining establishment. Upon learning it was our first time to the restaurant, he walked us through the menu, offered a few suggestions, and told us about Lento and its commitment to using produce sourced within fifty miles whenever possible. Lento also has a pretty remarkable raw bar that uses very intentional sourcing too, no purchasing from commercial fisheries is allowed.
Dinner was bookended with lovely wine and cocktail offerings. My wife opted for a bubbly holiday cocktail while I enjoyed the more potent Smoking Cowboy, a blend of High West Double Rye Whiskey, Casamigos Tequila, mezcal, lime zest, and bitters—both Peychaud’s and molasses.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LENTO
Our meal began with a platter of local cheese that also featured freshly-baked fruit bread, which, served warm complemented each of the cheese selections. Whether you opt for cheese or pass, each table is served a basket of fresh, local bread with seasoned oil.
Jenny dubbed her entree of roasted wild Coho salmon with roasted romanesco, wild rice, and maple rosemary buerre blanc “Christmas in your mouth.” The flavor of my smoky cocktail was the perfect match with an order of stuffed cannelloni. Simply prepared, the dish featured rappini, black trumpet mushrooms, tomato sauce, and Provolone Stravecchio.
If you’re on more of a cocktails and snacks adventure, I recommend the poutine made with fresh cut duck fat fries (pictured above).
It’s not a date night dinner without a dessert to share, and we selected the Caramel Apple Mousse. The portion allowed each of us to enjoy a bit of sweetness while still saving room for the ultimate goal of having a few more cocktails to ring in the new year.
Over my lifetime, the Village Gate has slowly revitalized the Neighborhood of the Arts. What used to be a purely industrial zone—occupying the same space an old printing company did prior to it’s sale in 1982—the building now houses some of the area’s most prolific local artists, who open their doors to the public on a monthly basis. If you visit Lento, or one of the other great options within just a few steps, be sure to end your night with a truly unique cocktail experience. Wander across the walkway to Nox, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. We stopped by before finding a safe ride home, and it was the perfect way to christen our year of food and drink adventures.
Ryan’s Date Night Scorecard
Mood: Romantic, Upscale, Impress the folks, Rustic and fresh
Ideal For: Happily married, Business dinner, Cocktails with a group, Quiet meal at the bar
Budget: Mid-upper range, Dinner for two under $100