I know that i haven't been getting out to eat so much in the last year, but i have to say that i've eaten out enough that the following is a pretty strong statement:
Last night i had the best meal that i've had in a restaurant in a long, long time. I can hardly remember when i've been so pleased.
i haven't been to many of the places i've been reading about (applewood, chestnut, etc.), but i've been out some. i loved al di la the first time i went (last fall), but was totally unimpressed, as was my whole party of 5, the last time i ate there last month. my last meal at Sapori d'Ischa was so-so as well. and even thought it's hard for me to compare recollections of Asian flavors vs European flavors vs Latin flavors, i would say that it was better than anything i've had in those realms recently, incl. Momofuku. in fact, the last meal (in NYC) that i think could compare in quality, execution, vision, creativity, and presentation would be my anniversary dinner at Aquagrill, which is always excellent.
so, onto dinner...
i had the arugula/camembert/spiced pecan salad, which was artfully presented. young, tender arugula, lightly tossed with a vineagrette with distinctive truffle flavor, with granny-smith apple slices and slightly-candied/spiced toasted pecans, on one side of a shallow-bowl, with a small wedge of camembert poised upright in a small pool of honey on the other side.
my friend had a deconstructed beat/greens/cheese salad, which was about 4-5 thick slices of roasted beets, that were then topped with a good amount of goat cheese, which was then broiled until soft, bubbly, and browned on top ... served with a swath of pureed, liquified spinach on one side, and an accent of a reduced balsamic on the other. the only thing that would have made it more balanced and might be some toasted walnuts, or candied walnuts.
i had the duck breast special, which was fairly lean (a nice bit of fatty skin, but not too much, done nicely crisped) with the meat tender and medium-rare, served with figs and carmelized onions in a port-blood orange reduction. my only complaint is that it wasn't balanced with a vegetable or grain, which would have been nice.
my friend had the menu-item stuffed organic chicken, which was stuffed with chopped spinach and bacon and was really appealing and not as predictable as it sounds. it was served on a bed of goat-cheese mashed potatoes, which were tasty in the goat-cheese bits, but a bit bland in the more potato-ey parts. but i'm not such a big potato eater anyway. i would have served it with polenta or something.
so many items sounded tasty -- i hope they keep up with this standard and that i can enjoy some more meals in the future.