There are restaurants that excel at most dishes on their menus, but there are also restaurants that are unremarkable across the board, except for a handful of plates. Those dishes are so outstanding that the restaurant is worth visiting (even recommended) if you order wisely. Le Sirene, a new Italian restaurant, which opened in the space that was formerly Palmer’s Crossing in Larchmont, falls into the latter category. Owned by Gerardo and Cosimo Bruno (who also own Manhattan’s Caravaggio, Sistina, and San Pietro restaurants) and helmed by Italian Chef Stefano Gentile, the kitchen turns out dishes that, for the most part, are perfectly acceptable but not outstanding. There are a few dishes, however, that are so delicious and well executed, they’re worth returning for time and again.
The atmosphere at Le Sirene is classy but relaxed.
Any meal at Le Sirene starts with a lengthy recitation of the specials as the maître d’ parades around the dining room, offering a container of truffles as if it were a box of pungent jewels (they can be shaved onto many dishes for a hefty fee). We skipped the truffles and opted for an eggplant Parmesan from the specials menu, which was light as a feather but needed a flavor boost. Zucchini blossoms stuffed with a mixture of peppers and tomatoes were light and crisp, though the assertive stuffing overpowered the flowers’ delicate flavor. A plate of burrata, served over fatty, tender slices of prosciutto, seemed like a guaranteed success, but the cheese was served cold—a cardinal sin for any kind of mozzarella. An autumn salad of baby kale, spinach, and apple fared much better, with tender leaves, sweet candied walnuts, and salty Gorgonzola in a bright, acidic dressing.
I had high hopes for pennette with aged pork cheek, Parmesan, and egg yolk. It arrived at the table, the rim of the oversized bowl sprinkled with pepper, and a tiny quail’s egg nestled into the center of the dish. But the flavor just wasn’t there. The pepper was nowhere to be found, nor was the cheese, and the “pork cheek” tasted suspiciously like bacon. Hand-rolled pasta with lamb ragu had a lovely chewy-yet-firm texture, but the lamb wasn’t quite tender enough. Spaghetti in a simple sauce of burst cherry tomatoes and abundant basil was much more successful, though the addition of dried herbs lent an unnecessary heaviness to the fresh sauce. The ravioli, however, were perfect. I’d order them every time. Al dente pasta held a supple ricotta filling. A delicate yet earthy butter-and-sage sauce was the perfect complement, with just a hint of lemony thyme.
Thinking pastas are often the strongest entrées at Italian restaurants, I overlooked the meat dishes on my first visit to Le Sirene, and that turned out to be a huge mistake. A thick-cut veal chop was expertly seasoned and cooked until just pink and tremendously juicy. Dare I say, the best veal chop I’ve ever had. Fingerling potatoes were simply roasted and one bite took me back to ones I’ve had in Italian trattorie in Florence or Rome. Salmon was just barely caramelized on top, yet still moist and buttery, and served with an unconventional apple purée.
The outstanding bombolini, or Italian donut holes, are made with ricotta and dusted with cinnamon sugar.
Besides ravioli and veal chops, there are other highlights of dining at Le Sirene. A wine list comprises more than 30 by-the-glass choices that can be paired with your meal. The service is gracious and doting (almost overly so). Waiters in cream-colored jackets whisked between tables delivering bowls of marinated black and green olives and glasses of crisp breadsticks baked in the pizza oven (the restaurant offers several thin-crust pizzas including a creamy four cheese pie with tangy pomegranate seeds). The staff is shockingly good at anticipating your every need, to the point that one of my fellow diners was sure our waiter must be psychic. And it carries over to the atmosphere. Despite the formal white-tablecloth interior, on a full night, happy diners strike up conversations with the table next to them.
Unfortunately, you can’t write about Le Sirene without mentioning the prices. An appetizer-sized eggplant Parmesan was $20. Five zucchini flowers were similarly priced. Bombolini, those ubiquitous cinnamon-sugar donuts that appear on every menu, cost a whopping $14. And what about those bomboloni? They boasted a crispy exterior, generously coated with sugar, and incredibly light and fluffy interior. Easily the best I’ve ever had.
Food 2.5/4 | Service 3.5/4 | Atomosphere 3/4 | Cost $$$$
Le Sirene Ristorante
1957 Palmer Ave, Larchmont