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Biltmore Room -- Disappointing

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Biltmore Room -- Disappointing

cabrales | Jan 9, 2004 10:55 AM

Biltmore Room's cuisine confirms yet again my belief that Grimes does not evaluate cuisine well. This restaurant should not be three-star NYT. In my eyes, it would barely manage two, if that.

We began with glasses of champagne. We chose Moet Rose over Chandon CA Brut and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label. A bit alcoholly in the mouth upon first sip, but my dining companion found the finish appropriate ($16/glass).

There were no amuses that I recall, which is a terrible situation for a three-star NYT rating. Literally nothing except bread and butter was brought to us before the appetizers. My dining companion and I exchanged 1/2 of each course with the other party, so I can report on four dishes.

The basic construction of a dish, for each of the four dishes sampled was:

Heat (chili or similar) + Principal product + Fruity or other sweet product + Either Starch And/or Item for Texture

This formula became repetitive, as literally every dish my dining companion and I sampled before dessert had this construct. I do not generally like heat, as it is very stark for me, but even for an average diner, this use of heat by the chef would seem to me to be inappropriate when so repetitively applied.
The dishes' construct is below:

(1) Heat in noodles wrapping the prawn and in mango salsa + Prawns + Mango/beets + Avocado
(2) Heat added to mango + Foie + Mango + Black Thai rice
(3) Heat added to exterior of lamb and in chutney + Lamb + Fig/Sugary Carrots + Cous cous
(4) Heat from seeped persimmon seeds and dry rub applied to venison + Venison + Some fruit on top of venison I could not identify + celeryroot puree

The Meal

(1) Giant Prawns in Sarong, red beets in honey ginger vinaigrette, avocado tomato salad & mango mint salsa ($14)

This dish was disappointing. There were two heads-on prawns wrapped in a Chinese chow-mein-type-noodle (instead of thin vermicelli) prior to deep-frying. The noodle carried a bit of "heat" (as used in this report, chili-type, "hot" flavors), and might have been cooked with chilis before being wrapped around the prawns. The mango mint salsa carried heat as well.

There were several things to be improved with respect to the dish: (a) the noodles enveloping the prawns could have been thinner or otherwise more delicate in texture (as opposed to very crunchy and like chow mein), so as to allow the prawns' flavor to be better articulated, (b) the prawn flesh was more cooked (despite the wrapping) than I subjectively would consider ideal (although it would be appropriate according to most diners, I imagine), and (c) the noodle/prawn item had not been served immediately or very shortly after deep-frying, so that the noodle exterior was not ideal.

Avocado was at the base of the dish, and served to mitigate the heat and the sugary nature of the mango salsa. The heat itself served to mitigate the tropical aspects of mango. This chef likes to use mango, as well as heat. Little tomatoes were not as cliche with avocado as I might have imagined in the dish, and the beets were not as sugary (in an appropriate way) as I had imagined. Slices of cucumber were probably also appropriate in the dish.

This is a far cry from Alain Senderens' langoustines wrapped in vermicelli at Lucas Carton, which has long utilized thin, delicate vermicelli noodles to wrap langoustines that diners are encouraged to eat with their hands and to dip into a cream-based, shellfish sauce. That dish is one of my preferred dishes at Lucas-Carton, and the prawns in sarong at Biltmore Room had no aspects that could even approach what the langoustines in vermicelli dish offers.

(2) Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, fiery mango dipping sauce, toasted almonds & black thai rice salad ($19)

This was fairly good, but there were too many slices of mango (marinated with heat) surrounding the edge of the foie. The foie was well-executed, and there was a little piece of grapefruit which was not unattractive. Thai rice salad conferred a not bad texture to the base of the dish. The Moet Rose was not a poor match with this foie, to my slight surprise.

(3) Algerian spiced roast Rack of lamb, dried fig cous-cous with ginger glazed carrots, braised favas and tomato eggplant chutney ($32)

Two large pieces of lamb, each with two bones protruding from it. We had asked for medium rare, but only one of the pieces was appropriately cooked (the other was overcooked, to a noticeable extent). Nice fattiness, but again the heat undermined this dish for me. The heat lay in the exterior of the lamb piece, and also in the tomato eggplant chutney. Nonetheless, this was a hearty composition, although I didn't quite see why chervil adorned it (nor why chervil adorned the venison dish described below). The dish does convey Algerian-type flavors, as described in its name. However, I found the heat conveyed by the dish too stark. (It is the case that I generally have difficulties with heat, and do not take in Indian or Thai cuisine unless I have no choice with a group).

(4) Cocoa dusted Venison, with truffled celeryroot puree and persimmon seeds (not official name) ($29)

I did not like this dish. Slices of venison had likely been dry-rubbed, after cooking, with a mixture of cocoa powder and possibly (green?) chili powder. The heat, which had chlorophylly or herby connotations, was unusual, but not necessarily in a good way.

Pomegranate seeds had been immersed in type of chili or similar oil, such that they delivered individually more heat as well as a burst of moisture. Brussel sprout halves were thankfully crispy and normal. Truffled celeryroot puree was laden with truffle oil, and I could not recommend this type dish.

With a chocolate tart sampled by my dining companion, two espressos and a moderate bottle of Red Burg ($75; Vosne-Romanee 2000, Jean Grivot), the bill for two came out to $237 after tax and before tips.

Miscellaneous

I found it unhelpful to a serious restaurant that one has to get past party-types in the bar and lounge area before one gets to the restaurant. There were some men who seemed intent on picking up women, when I had to pass the bar area again to access thr washroom facilities.

Service was average. There should have been more dish announcements upon the arrival of the food.

Decor is not particularly impressive to me, although the marble and mirrors do evoke a certain bygone era. Flower arrangements did not particularly enhance the room, including in the case of the ill-matched flowers on top of the fireplace towards the end of the room. The fireplace itself was a poor fit for the ornate (not necessarily in a good sense) room.

The background music was not helpful.

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