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Hugs and Kisses at Ortolan...

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Hugs and Kisses at Ortolan...

Dommy! | Apr 24, 2005 04:55 PM

Okay, in keeping with Chowhound’s full disclosure policy, I went to this dinner with a girlfriend who is a very popular regular at L’Orangerie. So, when she walked through the door, it was like a high school reunion, lots of hugs and kisses from the chef, Sommelier and waits staff that jumped ship. Therefore, the attention paid to our table though out the meal was a lot higher than anyone would expect…

Nevertheless, I’m the first to arrive for our 7pm reservation. The restaurant was pretty empty. I was very warmly greeted by the hostess given the option to sit at the bar or to go to my table. I opted for the table. Now…walking by this very blue restaurant you can see it’s divided into two parts. A dark dining room with rustic bench table and a very plush area with chandeliers and lots of white. What you don’t see is, the middle area with bar and skylight ceiling. It’s painted all in black (Very stark contrast to the white room) and along the wall are planters with rows upon rows of fresh herbs growing (This is where we sat) and a back room with another large table and a roaring fireplace.

Upon sitting down, napkin was draped and waiter followed soon afterwards offering a cocktail. I asked for the wine list which was promptly presented. An amazing list with great prices (more about that later). After a brief consultation with the waiter, I ordered their one Rose (~$9), which was excellent, jammy and smooth. So even without ‘home girl’, the service was already just very friendly and did not skip a beat.

GF finally arrived with the flurry of hugs and kisses following her. I congratulated Christophe on his Food and Wine Award (Best New Chef 2005), which I later was amused to see was already on the menu… LOL!

There is no bred basket, instead someone presents you a large basket of bread with five choices, flat bread, organic, walnut and raisin, ciabatta and French table bread. You get butter and three test tubes with a lobster based olive oil, Sage olive oil and Balsamic. We tried them all, and everything was very good, but my favorite was ac the Walnut Raisin smeared with lots of their excellent soft butter… :D

The amuse was two test tube soups. They are now served with little black straws, which made it much easier to deal with than the oils. One was Asparagus with blood orange foam. The other was a Pea Soup with milk foam. The pea soup won out for me…

To start we ordered the Sardine Ceviche (~$14). One thing to make clear off the bat is the portions at the restaurant are very good. It’s not a small plates place like AOC, this app came with four good size rolls of pristine thick sardines filets, stuffed with Fava Beans, Artichoke, and Radish. The Ceviche dressing was just tart enough to cut through the natural richness of the Sardine… This was GFs choice, and she loved it. But I’m not a huge Sardine fan, and although it certainly was better than any Sardines I’ve had, it was still Sardines… Next time, my choice, I’ll opt for the Crayfish and Rabbit Meatballs…

For mains, I ordered the Filet of Beef (Rare) with Bone Marrow Ravioli (~$38)…

Now, by this time, I had finished my Rose and I wanted to select a red to go with this entrée… I called on the Sommelier and since we had already been chatting it up since GF got there, he said he was going to bring me a very special surprise. He had me taste a wine while purposely covering the label with his hand, saying, I would never guess what it was… but I did peek “Made in Mexico” and knew EXACTLY what he’s pouring… It was an L.A. Cetto Nebbioli 1997 ($~8)… a few months earlier, I had done a HUGE search for this VERY wine for a friend, tried a bit and was in love. Yes, Mexico does make wine, the vineyard is in Baja and it’s EXCELLENT. The Sommelier and I TOTALLY bonded over this bottle of wine, he explained to me how he was going for a list that was not only amazing, but was VERY unique. He gave me a connection at the San Antonio Winery to get more L.A. Cetto. I can’t wait to get down there to pick it up!!

As for the main, I was presented with a tray that had two dishes. First, the good size filet that the waiter hand drizzled with salty Au Jus and left a scoop of awesome béarnaise. On the other plate was a HUGE bone with fatty marrow with two very delicate Ravioli placed on top and all on a bed of sautéed shitake mushrooms. It was all done so well and went so well together, I loved mixing the buttery marrow with the mushrooms. And of course steak and mushrooms are classic…

GF ordered the John Dory, seared on hot River Stone with little neck clams and gnocchi. (~$34) Although my dish was very good, she scored the winning dish. The two filets of John Dory were done PERFECT. Along the back, they were prepared with a little strip of skin that was SO crisp and a little salty, which made each bite heavenly. The little bitty gnocchi were RICH and full flavored. The clams were also very done and there were several perfectly done whole morels on the bottom of the plate…

And finally, dessert. I had he Lemon Crème and Lemon Sorbet (~$10). Again, served on a tray with two plates, the Lemon crème was a VERY tart dense and creamy lemon curd served in a Meyer lemon rind. The sorbet was two perfect little rolls that were covered in a crisp torched sugar shell. As we know by now, I’m not a sweets person at all, so I loved this.

GF had the Chocolate Soufflé with Chocolate cream (~$14). Presented in a similar fashion, the soufflé was a small little tower (not the best I’ve had) and the crème was sandwiched in between a layer of cookie and two pieces of dark chocolate.

When we left (almost 10pm), the restaurant was completely full (Yes, there was even a party at that huge park bench table in the front!). Lots of thank yous and good byes were exchanged, (Including by now Jeri Ryan who was manning the front). Not a bad way to spend a Saturday at all! :D

--Dommy!

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