TESSA is the perfect spot for dinner, drinks and great atmosphere. Set on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, TESSA is a lively tavern with Italian and southern French flare. The space is beautifully designed with a long brick dining space that also serves as a bar and lounge area. The back of the dining space serves as a wine room and on the warm days of summer, TESSA offers dining al fresco in their open cafe area.
We were so excited to try all of the exciting and innovative dishes on the menu. The menu reflected lots of the season’s produce and fresh local ingredients. We decided to try a little bit of everything off the special chef’s menu. First off, cocktails. I decided to keep things spicy that evening with an El Diablo (jalapeno infused Espolon Blanco tequila, cactus pear, bitter lemon and sriracha salt). My guest chose the 349 (old granddad bourbon, Amaro, honey, fresh lemon and ginger beer). Both were delicious and full of flavor. My El Diablo was the perfect balance between sweet, salty and enough heat to keep me wanting more. The drink list also offers a large variety of beers on tap and delicious wines by the glass.
We started the evening indulging on the housemade rosemary foccacia as we waited for our first courses to arrive. There it was, the most creamiest buratta over arugala, cherry tomatoes, aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. I have had my fair share of buratta, including the freshest, straight from Italy, and Tessa’s definitely came close to it. We dipped our rosemary bread and scooped up some peppery arugala, creamy burrata and sweet tomatoes in olive oil. We also dined on the Mussel Provençale (Hollander Maine mussels, white wine tomato broth, fennel with grilled garlic baguette) and one of our favorites, the Octopus a la Plancha (yellow squash caponata, green olive tapenade with aged balsamic). The octopus was perfectly seared and the aged balsamic gave the best mixture of smokey and sweet in between each bite. We couldn’t get enough of it. Each plate was large enough to share between 3-4 people, a perfect way to dine out and share small plates, tapas style.
Next up was our pasta course. Beautiful plates of fresh made pasta danced across out little table for two. First up was the linguini tossed with Tasmanian pepper and lemon, parmigiano and topped with a basil crunch. What I love about Tessa’s pasta dishes is that you can order a small serving for one or the larger option to share. Next out was the Rabbit Cavatelli (rabbit and pancetta ragu, smoked onion, lovage coulis and diced chives). I absolutely loved this dish. So many flavors came through each ridged piece of fresh cavatelli. The smokiness from the onions and richness from the pancetta and rabbit gave this plate a true heartiness. Our bellies were filled with glee.
Our final entrees were served: Berkshire Pork Chop (braised gigante beans, grilled scallions dressed with garlic pork jus) and Scottish Salmon (fennel quinoa, roasted cherry tomato, blood orange sabayon over winter mesclun). We couldn’t even take in all of the delicious flavors and the beautiful presentation. The pork chop was cooked to perfection, tender and flavorful and I couldn’t get enough of the gigante beans that sopped of all of the delicious natural juices from the meat. The salmon was glazed beautifully and the sweetness from the sabayon kicked it up a few notches. We were filled to the brim and enjoyed every indulgence of the full-flavored dishes. In so many ways, each dish reminded me of Italian peasant food, using all of the available resources wisely and creatively. Its one of my favorite styles of cooking and one that I grew up on.
We skimmed the dessert menu as if we had room to stuff in more goodness, and of course we did just that. Our server recommended the Baked Alaska (chocolate and vanilla nougat ice cream, brownie, torched meringue and fresh passion fruit). Once of my favorite desserts, this sweet ending tasted like an inside out smores and we couldn’t get enough of it. We kept scooping and scooping and scooping. We also shared the Bread Pudding (wine poached pears, candied pumpkin seeds scooped vanilla ice cream). The pudding tasted like the flavors of fall and the wine poached pears were a nice take on one of my favorite fruits. A perfect ending to a sensational meal!
TESSA is the ideal spot for dinner, drinks and even brunch on the Upper West Side. The service was superb and the variety of pasta, meats fishes and much more are endless. There is something for everyone at NYC’s TESSA. Dinner is served all week from 5—11 p.m. Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.—4 p.m. Or stop in for a drink and small bites at the bar everyday from 4—5 p.m. See you there!
TESSA: 349 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC, 10024. Tel: 212-390-1974.