I really and truly don’t get why this place doesn’t get more attention. It's been two years since there was a post in this thread, notwithstanding the uniformly positive (dare I say, enthusiastic?) reviews here. The Lovely Dining Companion and I had an truly excellent dinner there on Saturday and we concluded the meal sort of looking at each other and simultaneously asking, “Why don’t we come here more often?” With a $25-off certificate from restaurant.com, our bill was $120 before tip. For two apps, two entrees, two desserts, and two glasses of wine. Not to mention the best server I can recall having in a long time. (If you go, make sure Louis is there that evening.)
Last time we went, about three years ago, there was only one other table of two there. Making it kind of a strange dining out experience. This time, there were close to thirty folks in the room (it’s a small room, quite cozy—complete with working fireplace—and can probably only hold about forty). So someone knows about it. The menu is pretty brief, six apps, seven entrees—and they don’t even highlight the availability of a five-course tasting menu for $75—but if the choices suit your palate, I would urge you to get over there. We enjoyed a uniformly excellent meal with superb service for less than half the price of one person at Grace or Alinea. (No, it’s not in the same league, but I haven’t had better food at this price point in a very long time.)
Pardon the lousy pics; new camera and a much steeper learning curve than I thought. (And it doesn't help to follow incite's superb pix.)“Foie Gras beans, pistachio, brioche, blueberry”
I was instructed to break the toasted brioche bridge and mix everything together with the foie “custard” posing as soup in the bowl. A trifle salty but wonderfully rich and velvety. “Bay Scallops croquette, citrus, spiced cauliflower, fennel”
I cannot honestly report on this app or the bass entrée since they were LDC’s and I tasted neither. She was quite happy with both and reported herself very pleased at how well the different elements of both plates worked with and complemented each other.“Bass, sticky rice, coconut, dashi, chiles, mushroom”
As noted above, not much I can say except to reiterate how pleased she was with the entrée.“Venison juniper, beet, carrot, turnip, gnocchi”
Two good-sized hunks of venison cooked to a near-ideal medium-rare. Juicy, full of flavor. I’m not sure I particularly cared for the beet gnocchi (they seemed a little doughy to me and I’m not sure beet worked with venison for me) but I was even taken with the vegetable smears (and the correct word for that would be ?): one of carrot and one of kale and something else green that slips my mind. Both intensely flavored and nice complements. A few chunks of mushrooms, a few heirloom carrots…a wonderful entrée.
LDC chose a simple option: apricot sorbet. In our collective experience, there seem to be rather less than half the dessert chefs out there who know how to do a sorbet that actually tastes like something. They’re either delicious and well flavored or they’re weak imitations of what they should be. This was clearly in the former class.
Well, actually, not quite: the mignardises. There was a piece of brittle (sorry I didn’t catch what kind), a peppermint marshmallow, and a raspberry fruit gel (I guess the official phrase is pâte de fruits à la framboise
). The brittle was really excellent and even the marshmallow, not one of my favorites, was remarkably light, not too chewy. Forgive me, but the fruit gel was a fruit gel. Can we all move on from fruit gels, now?Cheese course with garrotxa (right) and Finca pascualete (left)
I decided on the cheese course. Unfortunately, the menu online is not accurate. I chose a garrotxa (firm, nutty, goat’s milk) and Finca Pascualete (creamy, fairly mild sheep’s milk). I was learning to port (pun intended) but Louis recommended a glass of something called Black Noble from Australia. It’s 100% botrytised (hence the “noble”) semillon aged in oak for ten years. Think ruby port. Sort of. Rich tasting but surprisingly light. Reminiscent of a PX sherry. A real hit and ideal with the cheeses. They were served on a heavy hunk of granite along with Marcona almonds, raisins, a small chunk of honeycomb, some crackers, a preserved walnut, and a smear (there’s that word again) of golden raisin puree that was a real discovery.
(The preserved walnut was wholly new to me. Here’s what that purveyor to America, Zingerman’s has to say about them:
“One of the most interesting food finds of recent years. Small stands of walnut trees dot the mountainous Armenian landscape. In the fall farmers alight among the trees to gather the nuts when they’re still young and moist. They're bathed in barrels of spring water. Slowly, over weeks, their bitterness recedes. Cane sugar is added and cooked down to a sweet, thick syrup. They're slipped into jars and sent to us. This is an old method for preserving fruits and nuts — the process has a lot in common with marrons glacés and Elvas Portuguese sugarplums — and it’s extremely delicious when applied to walnuts. What you get is a tender crunch, firm flesh and a long-lasting caramel-tinged walnut flavor.”
Try ‘em if you can find ‘em. They’re wonderful on a cheese plate.)
The mignardises. There was a piece of brittle (sorry I didn’t catch what kind), a peppermint marshmallow, and a raspberry fruit gel (I guess the official phrase is pâte de fruits à la framboise
). The brittle was really excellent and even the marshmallow, not one of my favorites, was remarkably light, not too chewy. Forgive me, but the fruit gel was a fruit gel. Can we all move on from fruit gels, now?
A note on the breads. There were three: a pretzel roll, a wheat brioche, and a focaccia. I only had the first two and the pretzel roll was fresh and warm and delicious. The broche was sad, old, dry, and warming didn’t rejuvenate it, it just dried it out more. LDC reports the focaccia was excellent so I guess I’ll take her word for it. Butter was herbed, I think, and warm enough to spread. That’s actually one of my pet peeves (serving butter that’s right from the fridge, hard enough that you need an ice pick for it) and I appreciated the spreadability factor.
It should be noted that the online menu is pretty close to what is being offered (though the cheese list is not). The by the glass wine list is completely out of date and for inexplicable reasons the rest of the quite substantial list is not posted (the links are all broken). I chose a Cotes du Rhone (Clos du Mont Olivet—a part of the Chateauneuf de Pape estate) to accompany my foie and venison.
Finally, a note on our server (Louis says the receipt). What a pro: he knew the menu backwards and forwards. He could talk about the elements and ingredients and when he didn’t know, he found out and came back to tell us. He knew the wines (at least those by the glass) extremely well and offered me tastes of the various finalists I had settled on. He was there when he was wanted or needed—not often—and left us alone otherwise. Plates appeared and disappeared when they were supposed to and with no fuss. He was friendly without being cloying and completely professional. A real pleasure.
We are very much looking forward to returning.
P.S. Two minor notes to the house: please proofread the menus and get rid of the typos and PLEASE update the website. While the menu page is current, many others--from the wine list to the staff picture--aren't. If you're going to bother to have these pages, which I for one found worth looking at, then find the time to keep them current.
"I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)