Anyone seeking out fine dining on fleek in Rochester need look no further than Lento. This downtown eatery with a picturesque patio and industrial interior is widely considered to be the first farm-to-table restaurant in the area. Chef-owner Art Roger opened shop back in 2007 and has kept the focus trained on local and seasonal fare ever since.
Chef sources ingredients with care from area farms including Finger Lakes Family Farms and Hart’s Local Grocers as well as Rochester’s farmers’ markets. (Curious diners can read the entire selection on each menu.) This dedication means that the menu changes frequently, dictated by what’s fresh and available; regardless of the time of year. Did I mention that Roger recently became a prestigious James Beard award semifinalist under the Best Chef: Northeast category? This says a lot about his culinary prowess.
Our meal began with some just-from-the-oven focaccia bread and craft cocktails. The Honey Badger used New York State’s Red Saw bourbon as the jumping off point, matching it with rhubarb, lemon, local Davis Honey, Southern Amaro and some Molasses Bitters. Other than the craft cocktails, the beer list kept plenty of attention on local brews (think New York State’s Ommegang, Ellicottville Brewing Co. and Rohrbach).
Their housemade charcuterie is made with sustainable meat from local farms like Gansz and Seven Bridges. The most unique options included rabbit bacon (shaved paper thin) and rustic lamb and fig terrine, both of which were excellent. Meanwhile, the seafood bar will have you slurping back oysters like Skinny Dippers from Maryland and Beavertails from Rhode Island. They were deliciously briny and served with a mignonette sauce to highlight — not mask — the flavours.
My favourite dish of the night, bar none, was definitely the battered squash blossoms. They were oh-so-delicately crisp on the outside — tempura-like — and stuffed with herbed chevre. The pockets were served over slabs of meaty heirloom tomatoes, and the dish was finished with a mound of gorgeous basil pinenut pesto, sea salt and coils of basil. Packed with flavour, I could have eaten this all evening long and been perfectly content.
Carnivores would easily be impressed with the pork chop. Filling up much of the dish’s area, this mammoth hunk of meat — one whole pound, to be exact — was sourced from Gansz Farms and dolled up with plenty of roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Some vinegar-braised local kale and tomatoes prevented the dish from being too heavy, while a peach relish added a touch of heat.
Another noteworthy entrée was the Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. Another huge portion (how American, right?) was married with tomato-hued risotto with garlic scapes, yellow and green zucchini along with some blue crab. Sweet corn salsa topped the dish off.
If it’s warm weather, be sure to dine on the patio while you indulge at Rochester’s most noteworthy restaurant.
Housemade Charcuterie | rabbit bacon and lamb and fig terrine — with fresh baguette, pickled red onion and whole grain mustard
Battered Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Herbed Chevre
Skinny Dipper and Beavertail Oysters
Brined and Grilled Pork Chop with Mashed Potatoes and Spicy Peach Relish
Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon with Tomato Risotto, Yellow and Green Zucchini and Blue Crab, Sweet Corn Salsa
Written by Karolyne Ellacott
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