Judge Not… Yet

1219861947When is it too soon to review a restaurant?

Understanding how unexpected kinks and snafus can muck up even the most well-planned restaurant opening, when should responsible media claim the soapbox and pronounce judgment?

There used to be a consensus: give a place two or three months, visit it a few times, and then write your review. But that was before the rise of food blogs and chat boards. Now, there’s such a rush to be first on the scene that I won’t be surprised to discover a Blackberry-toting neighbor liveblogging the next big opening party.

All of these questions came into focus yesterday as I contemplated an undercooked piece of pork at the new, reopened Marliave.

The offending meat, rose-colored and raw in the center, was stacked in an otherwise appealing Medianoche (a.k.a. Cuban) sandwich, one of several sandwiches offered in the downstairs lounge. It perplexed me. Someone had sliced this meat, which meant they had seen its condition. This wasn’t the faint pinkish blush of a perfectly cooked tenderloin. It looked like seared tuna.

I didn’t send it back: My friend and I had over-ordered anyway, and we were too busy chatting to worry much about it. But I did point it out to the waiter, who ultimately took the sandwich off our bill.

But I am telling you about it here. Why? For one, it was a pretty big mistake. But more importantly, because I think blogs, boards, and the like, are an appropriate place to record first impressions. Their open format allows multiple contributors to present multiple viewpoints, which ultimately add up to something like an accurate picture of a place.

So, my first impression of Marliave: mixed. But I think this mistake was a one-timer. And I’ll be back for a second look.

The rest of the meal was solidly good. Excellent meatball sliders on little garlicky rolls, homeade gnocchi in a meaty sugo, a classic bread pudding (see? Over-ordered). The lounge has the potential—not yet realized—to serve home-style Italian cooking that would best most North End red sauce joints. (The more formal upstairs dining room, with its gorgeous, sort of Parisian rooftops view, is aiming higher—foie gras ravioli and butter-poached lobster).

It helps that the location, tucked into a side street in Downtown Crossing and dating back to 1885, is so charming. And that chef/owner Scott Herritt (of Grotto), has preserved the pressed ceilings and tile floors (though I wish he’d opted to stripped the century-long accumulation of paint in some of the walls and mouldings, rather topping it with more glossy black).

We’re grateful that this storied spot didn’t become another tear-down project for a developer, and we hope that Marliave’s potential soon becomes a reality.