The food fascination with all things local, organic and sustainable is in full force, and Lento Restaurant is the grass-fed essence of all of the above.
Located in Rochester, N.Y.’s Village Gate on North Goodman Street, Lento focuses on sustainability by offering fresh ingredients from local farms and vendors.
Lento makes and creates its own condiments, dressings and sauces and bakes all of its breads and desserts; quality control reveals itself in the first bite of the warm, herb-infused focaccia.
Its meat, Lento claims, is all pasture-raised, and along with all produce, is “procured from small, local farms” that are identified both on the menu and showcased on various chalkboards throughout the restaurant.
The first test to Lento’s promise is the seared Hudson Valley foie gras - or fattened duck liver, for culinary novices - over almond challah. Soaked in a fig red wine gastrique, the fatty concoction is a melt-in-your-mouth savory stack. Although mildly overbearing, the gastrique soaks the meat to perfection and the challah does well to absorb the sweet-sour sauce.
Accompanying its French partner is the poutine - a traditional Quebecois plate of fries, duck gravy and cheese curds from First Light Creamery in East Bethany, N.Y. Although terribly delicious, this artisanal garbage plate is heavy and best shared, to avoid gluttony. For those looking to expand their poutine experience, Lento offers “The Works” with house-smoked brisket, wild mushrooms and its own bacon.
Lento should pride itself on its seafood offerings. From wild Florida white shrimp and littleneck clams at $2 each and crab claws at $3, diners can create customized seafood platters served with the house cocktail sauce - a rich brown dressing with horseradish chunks that offset the full-fish flavor.
Choosing a meal from the drool-enduing entrée list is stressful; it’s crucial that the server is aware that diners always need those extra two minutes to decide.
The roasted monkfish - cooked to perfection - with Maine mussels served with saffron rice with leeks and oil-cured olives is a mouthful, to say the least. The mild red pepper sauce unites the ingredients in an extravagant seafood delight.
The butternut squash ravioli with pecorino Romano is a classic and comforting autumnal dish. The brown butter sauce is risky, but rather than dominating the dish, the smoky sweetener is a friend to the homemade ravioli filled with warm orange puree.
A shrimp-sausage stuffed tortellini, also homemade, in tomato-shrimp broth is beautifully presented; the pasta origami lay among verdant leeks and wild mushrooms in a bath of tomato chunks and thin sauce. Although the broth is underwhelming, the tortellini shows off its glorious shrimp-sausage filling with each bite.
Lento’s ambiance is tranquil. Dim lighting and lush maroon walls allow for a calm meal; during the day, the floor-to-ceiling windows showcase Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts.
Prices are high at Lento, but quality is higher. With a menu that changes every day at 5 p.m. to the fresh ingredients that it has available, the restaurant holds true to its motto: “Lento is local.”