Mouth Jump

What's in a name? At Saltimbocca's!, it's the best dish on the menu.

Stuffed mushrooms employ wine as well. This dish has always been fraught with risk. Most recipes never seem to strike the right balance. Either the ingredients overwhelm the buttons (relatively rare), or the fungi caps themselves are far too clumsy to dance with the stuffing. Here's a suggestion: If you stuff a mushroom, focus as much attention on the caps as you do the stuffing. Taste the filler, and then figure out what needs to be done to the mushroom (if anything) to permit a successful mesh. Does the mushroom need a little sting to balance it out? Try marinating it or sautéing it in wine. Is the mushroom texture too watery and spongy for the matrimony? Try grilling it vigorously or sautéing it until it sweats profusely.

The buttons arrive upended on a platter, resting in a vast reservoir of roasted garlic cream and wine blended with Asiago and Parmesan cheeses. The underside of the cap is stuffed with spicy sausage, bread crumbs, ricotta cheese and spinach. A smear of tomato sauce tops the filler. It all comes together well, and you can make the stuffing a bit richer and more unctuous by spooning the cheese over that red smear. It trickles off the spoon like hot fudge. But here's the beef: Those mushrooms are too spongy and watery, though most in our dining pool sharply contested this assessment, relishing the just-picked forest-floor component.

This was amusing, though: potato ravioli. First question: Is this some sort of weird gnocci projection? Or is this really a pasta pillow stuffed with spuds? "You'll like it," said our server. "It's like steak and potatoes." Well, yes it is, I suppose--except you don't need a knife. Heck, you barely need a fork. This is what you get: supple loose pasta that billows in the middle before it drops off into large flaps, like grouper fins. They're stuffed with creamy garlic mashed potatoes. They're sauce-less.

Saltimbocca's! is a bistro. That means plenty of Sinatra on the sound system.
Tom Jenkins
Saltimbocca's! is a bistro. That means plenty of Sinatra on the sound system.


Stuffed mushrooms $5.95
Spinach artichoke formaggio $5.95
Potato ravioli $12.50
Salmon oreganato $14.95
Veal saltimbocca $14.95
Chicken portobello $12.95
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Next to them is a stew of beef tenderloin strips, mushrooms and bell pepper slivers in a dark, rich Chianti sauce. The meat is a bit chewy, but that doesn't detract. This won't be bringing the steak-house armada to its knees, though.

Chicken portobello is a juicy breast topped with cheese, slices of portobello mushroom and a brutal pounding of peppercorns. But it's bread that really tortures this dish. Badly singed bruschetta, topped with pesto, tomato and capers, is so sopped with port wine sauce it has to be drained off to the side.

Then there's the headliner, a designation reinforced by the interior design. The word saltimbocca is stenciled phonetically over the soffit above one wall. Over another soffit reads the definition: "1. Jumps in your mouth."

Veal saltimbocca (it also comes in shrimp and chicken versions, economically utilizing the sauce across three entrée platforms) is delicious. The thin scaloppine is draped in prosciutto and thumped by a thick blanket of mozzarella cheese. The meat is tender and moist. Yet it's the sauce that proves riveting. Composed of veal stock, garlic, fresh basil, sautéed shallots and a couple of hits of red wine, it's smooth and rich, with little threads of sweetness tossed off from the shallot minces--a jump shot. In the mouth. 5900 W. Interstate 20, Arlington, 817-561-1117. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; and 4-11 p.m. Saturday. $$-$$$

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