The wife and I headed down to the city Friday evening to try the relatively new Al Dente in the Irving Park area. Chef Javier Perez (from MK, Cibo Matto, Spiaggia) and his wife had opened this restaurant several months ago. It was conveniently located for us, as it was just off the highway, and street parking was plentiful. The dining room (comfortable, spread out, but not plushly decorated) was pretty full when we arrived. We sat down, opened a bottle of wine we brought and looked at the menu.
The menu had starters ($6-13), sides (~$5), and entrees ($18 - $27). The restaurant describes itself as "contemporary American"; there is a lot of Mexican and Italian dishes / influences on the menu. Two of the starters we wanted to were the mussels and calamari, but they were out of each of those. So we ordered:
Mac & Cheese wisconsin white cheddar cheese, truffle butter, garlic crumbs - This was OK. I felt the dish could have used a bit more seasoning.
Mushrooms wild roasted mushrooms, fresh corn polenta, cotija cheese, sherry vinaigrette - This dish, which happened to be our 2nd vegetarian selection, was enjoayable.
Queso Fundido shrimp, melted chihuahua cheese, house made chorizo, onion, tortilla chips - This was very good. It was great to dip the house made chips in the creamy cheese. The shrimp were tasty too. I enjoyed the chunks of the chorizo too.
We also had a side of fries. They came with a habanero aioli. I'd skip those and save room for the entrees.
We ordered two pasta entrees. Both were excellent.
Pappardelle - maine lobster, leeks, wild mushroom, truffle butter A very simple dish executed perfectly. The lobster was cooked perfectly. The sauce was light and didn't overpower the lobster. The pasta was perfect.
Gnocchi - potato cheese gnocchi, wild boar ragout, truffle sauce, sarvecchio cheese The gnocchis were served on a bed of the wild boar ragout. The gnocchis were soft and light. The ragout was rich. The menu description mentions a sauce, but I don't recall it (I could have missed it). I would have loved a little (more) sauce, but the gnocchi / boar were great.
We passed on dessert.
The service was mediocre (not that I expect more for a BYO place) and there is a $5 corkage fee per 2 bottles of wine.
In all, the food was very good and we enjoyed the evening.
3939 West Irving Park Road