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Bastide Review (Long)

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Bastide Review (Long)

chudawn | Apr 17, 2005 05:21 PM

Inspired by Silver Lake Guy's review of the Bastide tasting menu that he posted a few weeks ago, the SO and I went there last weekend to celebrate our 11 year anniversary. All in all, we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the food very much.

We were seated outside on the patio (per our request), which was lovely, albeit a bit windy. The trees on the patio, which make for great ambience, unfortunately shed delicate flower petals onto our table and into our water. The staff responded quickly by bringing folded napkins to cover our glasses. We were warm enough outdoors (given the numerous heat lamps that were on), but the staff also offered pashmina shawls to any woman who appeared to be cold. The sound of gently bubbling water from the numerous fountains created just the right amount of background noise to block out the other patrons and allowed us to concentrate on eating our meals and celebrating our special occasion.

The first amuses came before the menus: a cauliflower puree with caviar and small bits of mango, served in a shot glass with a small straw; a chicken curry mousse served like a lollypop; a roquefort macaroni and cheese served upright; and a piece of lobster with a slice of daikon topped with honey. These were the same amuses described in the LA Times article and previous reviews. Despite the fact that we knew what we were in for, these items were no less surprising or enjoyable when we tasted them. We particularly enjoyed the cauliflower and mac and cheese. The chicken curry mousse was also good, but we found the lobster a little sweet for our tastes.

They brought the menus, and we decided on the $135/person tasting menu and the matching $80 wine pairings for the SO only. (The amount of wine poured was generous, and there was plenty for two to share.) The next amuse was the previously described deconstructed bloody mary. It was tomato sorbet, cucumber mousse, and vodka gelee, served on a spoon. We were told to take in one bite, and we did. It was wonderful -- cold and spicy and creamy with the slightest hint of vodka. The textures and temperatures all played off each other and literally evaporated in your mouth. I'm not one for drinking in hot weather, but I'd love several spoonfuls of these next time I'm by the pool.

Next up was a roquefort soup with a small frozen cube of gazpacho floating in the center, topped with one anchovy. Unlike Silver Lake Guy's serving, our gazpacho cube was perfectly melting so that you could break off small bits to eat with the roquefort soup. Again, the textures and temparatures played off each other. The cold tomato worked surprisingly well with the rich and creamy roquefort. Another great dish.

Next was the langostine course. We were served, in a martini glass, what we were told was a scoop of langostine mousse and a scoop of avocado mousse, topped with caviar and pistachio oil. Although the flavor or presence of langostine was not discernable, this was a delicious dish. The textures of the two mousses was wonderful, creating a cool and creamy cloud of richness, and the caviar gave just the right amount of saltiness.

Next came the foie gras - possibly our favorite course of the entire meal. Having spent two weeks in Spain last year, where we gorged ourselves on some of the best foie we've ever tasted, we've often found ourselves underwhelmed when tasting foie at restaurants here in the US. Not so with Bastide. A perfectly seared (and generously portioned) slice of foie appeared floating in a pool of orange sauce, made with fresh marmalade, zest and liquor. The foie was perfectly cooked - scorched outside, red and gooey inside - and would have been great as is, but was made all the better by being served with a small scoop of brown butter ice cream. The cool ice cream was rich and creamy, but not sweet at all. Fantastic, and unlike anything we've had outside of Spain. The cold ice cream played off the warm foie, with the orange adding just a bit of sweet and tart. At this point, we were very impressed.

The foie was followed by a profiterole, which looked to all the world like the standard sticky, sweet dessert covered in chocolate ganache with a pool of creme anglaise. We were confused (and a bit concerned) that we had been served some sort of savory dessert. Then our server explained -- a pastry shell filled with scallops, served with two beurre blanc sauces. One was plain (and white) and the other was flavored with squid ink (and so black in color). The squid ink sauce was on top of the pastry, and looked exactly like chocolate. On the side of the pastry shell were ample amounts of escargots. This dish was extreemely cheeky in its presentation and tasted quite good, but not as good (in my opinion) as the others. Still, we were happy to have eaten it, if just so that we could enjoy the unusual presentation.

Next up was the fish course. I did not catch what type of fish it was, but it was white and mild, served in a bowl with couscous, a little broth, and several cubes of vegetable gelee -- which seemed to be made of red bell pepper and green mint. We weren't crazy about this at first -- it seemed bland, but after a few minutes the gelees melted and turned into a delicious and flavorful sauce for the fish/couscous. By the end, we were pleased with the dish.

Next was lamb saddle, served with a demi-glace, roasted garlic, and white beans. When brought to our table, it was presented along with a test-tube filled with steaming water containing a stem of rosemary. This was included simply to provide aroma while we ate the course, and was not part of the dish. Once the plates had arrived, a waiter droped a single cube of frozen basil into the demi-glace, continuing the theme of differing temparatures and textures. While the lamb was tender and tasty, and the beans were firm and delicious, the dish was not as inventive or playful as the earlier dishes and so was a bit disappointing.

The cheese course was next. The selections were rather tame and mild, but that was fine after such a rich meal.

Cheese was followed by a palate cleansing harissa sorbet with basil gelee. Strange in flavor, but (as was the rest of the meal) surprising and pleasant. Savory, a bit spicy, and not what you would expect from a sorbet.

Next came annother reminder of our trip to Spain -- a strawberry soup, served in a shot glass and topped with pop-rocks (yes, that's right, pop-rocks). We had a rasberry dessert in Barcelona that used pop-rocks in a similar way and have been keeping an eye out to see if someone would try it here. It was sweet, playful and fun to eat -- a fine way to sum up Bastide's cusine in general.

Finally came the souffles. We had requested one chocolate and one roquefort. By this point, we were so full it was difficult to enjoy this final course, but the souffles were light, warm and fluffy. Both were served with cold creme fraiche, and the chocolate souffle was topped with a warm ganache. The roquefort was very savory - more like a bread pudding and less like a dessert, but unlike anything else I had ever tasted.

The wine that accompanied each and every course of our meal was well paired, and included a spanish sherry, a dry french riesling, a number of rather mild reds with well controlled tannins (including a surprising chateau neuf) and a bright tasty late harvest dessert offering.

All in all, it was an experience -- much more than a meal -- that lasted almost 4 hours. The inventiveness of the dishes and the willingness to take risks may not be for everyone, but it put smiles on our faces. Overall, it is dinner as entertainment, and we left happier than we do when we attend a play. The total was $270 for the two tasting menues, $80 for the wine pairings, plus tax and tip. Although we won't be going to Bastide regularly, we'll definitely go back to see what else they have in store.

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